Seniors, Families Can Help Prevent a Return Trip to the Hospital

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) offers information to help patients safely transition after hospital care.

According to the U.S. government, one-fifth of patients covered by Medicare return to the hospital within 30 days. The AHRQ tells us that these readmissions cost about $17 billion each year. Readmissions can also slow down a patient’s recovery.

As of October, Medicare’s reimbursement rate will reflect the ability of hospitals to prevent unnecessary rehospitalizations. Hospitals with high readmission rates for heart attack, pneumonia and heart failure are now paid less than those with fewer readmissions.

Older patients are at higher risk of returning to the hospital because they are more likely to be frail and have chronic conditions. Other reasons are more avoidable: Older patients may need help with transportation to follow-up appointments. And they may need extra support when leaving the hospital for home, or when transitioning to a skilled nursing facility.

AHRQ has developed a new guide for patients: Taking Care of Myself: A Guide for When I Leave the Hospital, an easy-to-understand plan for what to do when you or a loved one leaves the hospital. The guide can be used by both hospital staff and patients during the discharge process, and provides a way for patients to track their medication schedules, upcoming medical appointments, and important phone numbers. You can download a free copy of the guide on the AHRQ website or order a copy to be sent to your home.

The AHRQ’s Dr. Carolyn Clancy says, “Helping patients improve their health once they leave the hospital is not easy or automatic. The new effort by hospitals to prevent readmissions is a big step in the right direction. You can help by learning what you should do when you or your loved ones are in the hospital.”

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