For the healthcare system in general and the home health profession in particular, lowering hospital readmission rates for patients has evolved into a holy grail. Reducing readmissions is often the result of favorable patient outcomes and also shrinks healthcare costs.
Now a new study reinforces a long-held suspicion among home health clinicians – namely, that patients who receive home health visits immediately after discharge from a skilled nursing facility (SNF) are indeed less likely to return to the hospital.
The Indiana University (IU) Center for Aging Research and the Regenstrief Institute conducted the study, looking at 1,543 older adults. It found that a visit to an older patient from a home health clinician such as a nurse or physical therapist within a week of discharge from a SNF may cut the risk of hospital readmission within 30 days nearly in half.
The new research, entitled "Transitions From Skilled Nursing Facility to Home: The Relationship of Early Outpatient Care to Hospital Readmission," appeared in JAMDA, the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.
As the research shows for the sake of comparison, the risk of readmission may be higher for post-discharge patients who instead scheduled appointments with physicians, physician assistants or nurse practitioners at a medical office.
The upshot: the sooner a recently discharged SNF patient is visited at home, the better.
“Having a home health worker visit immediately after leaving a SNF was the factor that was most significantly associated with reduced rate of hospital readmission within 30 days of returning home," said geriatrician Jennifer Carnahan, MD, MPH, the assistant professor at the IU School of Medicine who led the study. “Our duty is to ensure they have all the tools they need to successfully remain independently at home.”
“We hope these findings will encourage policy makers to make home health care more widely available,” said Alexia Torke, MD, senior author of the study and associate director of the IU Center for Aging Research. “An early home health visit may be a great way to improve the chances that the older adult won’t need to come back to the hospital so soon.”