Report: Emails, text messages helped hospital cut readmissions for congestive heart failure patients

Figuring out effective ways to reduce 30-day readmissions for chronic conditions is an ongoing healthcare challenge facing hospitals as they try to avoid slashed reimbursement from CMS. Hahnemann University Hospital, a Philadelphia healthcare facility affiliated with Drexel University Medical School, made a case for using emails and text messages to reach patients on their mobile […]

Figuring out effective ways to reduce 30-day readmissions for chronic conditions is an ongoing healthcare challenge facing hospitals as they try to avoid slashed reimbursement from CMS. Hahnemann University Hospital, a Philadelphia healthcare facility affiliated with Drexel University Medical School, made a case for using emails and text messages to reach patients on their mobile devices. Representatives from the hospital explained at HIMSS this week how they cut readmissions by 10 percent, MobiHealthNews reported this week.

What started off as a six month study became a 10-month pilot and included 368 congestive heart failure patients and 784 discharges. Patients were given the option of text message, phone, or email reminders to show up for scheduled follow-up appointments when they were discharged from the hospital, the article noted.

Hahnemann CFO Richard Imbimbo and Dr. Thompson Boyd, physician liaison, using email and text message reminders to get patients into follow-up appointments. Imbimbo is also part of the Digital Collaboration Solutions Advisory Board — a consulting and services company that helps healthcare organizations use health IT to improve care coordination and patient and provider engagement.

According to MobiHealthNews:

68 percent of messaged patients showed up for their follow-up appointment, whether they confirmed or not. Only 47 percent of non-messaged patients showed up. Five percent of confirmed patients cancelled their appointments, compared to 4 percent of non-confirmed patients and 11 percent of non-messaged patients. The study looked at the income level of patients, and found that it had no effect on how responsive they were to messaging.

MobiHealthNews quoted Boyd: “We really want to show you that mobile technology has a role to play in readmission reduction and that patients that are more engaged tend to be readmitted less often…They keep their appointments more often at higher rates, and cancel less, and also, for those folks, percentage of readmissions was down.”

Lots of technology companies are interested in helping hospitals improve outcomes from congestive heart failure patients and rightfully so. About 5 million Americans have congestive heart failure. The condition is responsible for 11 million physician visits each year, and more hospitalizations than all forms of cancer combined, according to Emory Healthcare’s website. But the study’s findings underscore the value in using relatively basic approaches to engage patients without the risk of overwhelming them with technology.