What Are Readmissions?
If a business has high returns and cancellations, the problem could be the quality of the product. Hospitals treat readmissions the same way. Readmission happens when a patient comes back to the hospital after being discharged. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) rates re-entry as within 30 days of being released. A patient needs assessment can be a helpful tool in figuring out why readmissions are high.
The dangers of readmissions
Readmissions affect all parties involved. Patients may be getting improper levels of care or incorrect information upon discharge. These slips reduce trust and can cause avoidable deaths. Hospitals also stand to lose big with high readmission rates. More than 10 years ago, readmission rates were as high as 20%. To address the issue, the CMS now penalizes hospitals up to 3% of payments. Studies have shown that hospitals can save thousands per re-admitted patient. Low readmissions can even impact staff morale, stress, and performance. Reducing the numbers can transform the medical experience for all.
Bridging the gap with a needs assessment
The biggest threats to readmission rates include patient communication, process, and resources. To truly understand performance, hospitals should aim to complete a patient needs assessment. A needs assessment outlines the gap between what patients need and what’s happening. By identifying shortfalls, hospitals can then perform the right actions to improve.
Who do you serve?
So, where do hospitals start? First, each hospital must consider the specific community served. Each city has challenges, and the hospital will have limitations. At the same time, make sure not to set pre-conceived targets of what patient needs should be. To achieve this, set the assessment out with a list of both closed and open-ended questions. These questions will give a holistic view of patient care.
Find multiple stakeholders
The needs assessment fails if there aren’t enough stakeholders involved. Consider the entire patient process from start to finish. At every touchpoint, make sure to have someone who can give feedback. More importantly, the patients should have a significant say in what is lacking.
Use patient feedback to make decisions.
Without the patient’s voice, a patient needs assessment becomes useless. Are there patients directly involved in the process? Then lean on surveys like the HCAHPS. What makes the HCAHPS so useful is the number of questions geared to communication and performance. Adding open-ended questions will give the hospital both quantitative and qualitative data.
Collect, then review the data
Chances are, the hospital will reveal unmet needs from the data. Make sure to collect enough touchpoints to get an idea of what’s missing. Hospitals will see patterns in communication, care, skillset, and lack of resources that are causing issues like high readmission rates.
Identify the first steps for big wins.
Based on the needs assessment, some hospitals may not have the resources to fix everything. However, the hospital can invest in actions that can bring big wins. For instance, investing in remote case management. Having virtual support can improve the availability of staff and provide consistent communication. Hospitals can also add support for follow-up calls after discharge, which can transform performance.
Measure and communicate your progress
After crafting an action plan and making the initial changes, make sure to measure improvement. Recording progress helps keep the hospital accountable. Share the data with the stakeholders for more accountability. The needs assessment will continue to add value to the hospital through constant review.
Keep measuring performance
Reducing readmissions is one of the many areas as needs assessment can help. Some evaluations are mandatory, like the CHNA. However, this should not stop hospitals from conducting patient reviews periodically. By gathering feedback and taking action, a needs assessment can transform readmission rates and hospitals.