Health IT

Want to reduce readmissions? Hire more nurses, study says

hospital nurseReducing re-admissions is practically a cottage industry. With hospitals facing penalties for higher than average rates of readmission for certain conditions, health IT companies and entrepreneurs have responded with an array of analytical and remote monitoring  tools. They can range from identifying patients at risk for readmission to alerting staff to patients who appear to be deteriorating after discharge.

Obamacare includes provisions that punish hospitals for what are deemed to be needless re-admissions by reducing Medicare reimbursements. But a new study in Health Affairs suggests that for discharge and remote monitoring strategies to work, more money needs to be invested in boosting nursing numbers. The study focused on 2,826 adult acute care hospitals.

An abstract of the study said:

“Many evidence-based interventions that reduce re-admissions, such as discharge preparation, care coordination, and patient education, are grounded in the fundamentals of basic nursing care. Yet inadequate staffing can hinder nurses’’ efforts to carry out these processes of care. We estimated the effect that nurse staffing had on the likelihood that a hospital was penalized under the HRRP. Hospitals with higher nurse staffing had 25 percent lower odds of being penalized compared to otherwise similar hospitals with lower staffing.”

Fierce Healthcare, citing the study, said that hospitals were considered high-staffed if they had an average of eight registered nurse hours per adjusted patient day. Low-staffed hospitals averaged about five registered nurse hours per adjusted patient day.

There’s also another obvious advantage — nurses in well-staffed hospitals tend to have the time and the resources to make readmission reduction strategies work.

“They are also better equipped than other nurses to monitor for complications and adverse events that increase readmission risk.”

 [Photo credit: intentional blurred motion from BigStock Photos]