Reducing Emergency Department (ED) Visits and Readmissions

The rate of hospital readmissions in the U.S. is staggering and has been a national priority for healthcare organizations, providers and policymakers for years. Research suggests that nearly one in five Medicare patients discharged from the hospital are readmitted within 30 days, costing more than $26 billion annually. Equally concerning is that almost half of these readmissions may be preventable.

Hospital readmissions have a significant impact on healthcare organizations from both a clinical and financial perspective. The rate of unplanned hospital readmissions is a considerable measure of clinical quality. For example, high readmission rates are associated with increased risk, lower quality, unfavorable patient outcomes and higher costs. Hospitals with higher readmissions than national averages are penalized on reimbursement and have lower patient satisfaction scores.

To reduce the number of patients who return to the hospital after discharge, many hospitals and providers implement strategies that include connective care solutions to better engage with patients and monitor their health after they are discharged and return home.

Depending on the patient’s condition and acuity level, these technologies can often provide support for facilitating a successful transition from hospital to home. Some of these technologies may include remote patient monitoring (RPM), personal emergency response services (PERS), and medication management.

Remote Patient Monitoring

Remote monitoring has become a key component of value-based care strategies that help support the transition from hospital-to-home, and the management of care for patients with chronic diseases.

With RPM, hospitals and healthcare providers can remotely monitor, review, and analyze their patients’ health while they are at home. RPM delivers actionable information on patient physiologic data and provides alerts if a patient’s condition may be deteriorating, which enables providers to intervene and treat patients earlier before they have an adverse event or end up in the emergency room or hospital. RPM can be used to effectively monitor a wide range of health conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular heart failure, COPD, HTN-stroke, pneumonia, COVID-19, sepsis, obesity and post-surgical cases.

Several recent studies have documented the impact of RPM programs in preventing avoidable hospital readmissions and improving patients’ health.

For example, a Mayo Clinic study examined the impact of their RPM program, which showed impressive results in preventing avoidable hospital readmissions and improving patients’ recovery from COVID-19, including:

  • An 80% RPM engagement rate for at least one day among low-intensity enrollees and 78% among high-intensity participants.
  • 61.6% compliance with care plan tasks among low-intensity patients and 72.5% among high-intensity patients.
  • Only 9.4% of patients were admitted to the hospital within 30 days of enrollment or discharge.

A similar Kaiser Permanente study recently found that deploying RPM to treat COVID-19 patients effectively prevented readmissions and improved recovery from the virus.

Additionally, a KLAS research report conducted with the American Telemedicine Association found RPM programs across 25 healthcare organizations helped to reduce hospital admissions by 38% and readmissions by as much as 25%. Other notable results from the report included:

  • Patient satisfaction improved: 25%
  • Reduction in emergency room visits: 25%
  • Quantified cost reductions: 17%
  • Medication compliance included: 13%

Safety-Enhancing Technology

Whether a patient is returning home from the hospital after a procedure or is discharged and recovering from an illness, connective care solutions such as remote patient monitoring and personal emergency response systems can ease that transition and help healthcare providers, and caregivers ensure that patients are safer at home.

One of the leading causes of hospital admissions, particularly for at-risk older adults, is fall-related injuries. In fact, one study found that fall-related injuries ranked as high as the third leading readmission diagnosis. This is particularly true for at-risk seniors discharged home.

A broad range of evidence has shown that PERS, also known as medical alert systems, can be used as a highly effective fall management solution. This wearable safety-enhancing device provides continuous in-home and mobile monitoring for aging and at-risk populations. Certain PERS have also been proven to help lower unnecessary healthcare utilization and ease healthcare costs.

In addition to fall management, data collected from an internal PERS analysis found that Connect America’s PERS was widely utilized for individuals with symptoms related to conditions including respiratory issues, general pain, gastrointestinal issues, cardiac symptoms, and stroke. Research showed 53 percent of the PERS calls-for-assistance covered falls, and 47 percent were for non-fall health issues. In addition, less than half resulted in hospital transport.

Results from that same study showed that individuals monitored by Connect America’s PERS and CareSage analytics and reporting platform demonstrated a significant reduction in readmissions, ED visits and overall hospitalization costs, including a:

  • 68% decrease in 90-day readmissions with a corresponding triple decrease of proportion in patients with any 90-day readmission
  • 53% decrease in 180-day readmissions
  • 49% decrease of 180-day EMS encounters
  • 31% decrease in hospitalization costs

Medication Management

Another common cause of hospital readmissions is medication-related adverse events. In fact, some research suggests roughly two-thirds of adverse events after discharge are attributed to medications.

One critical factor in ensuring fewer adverse events and hospital readmissions is medication adherence. Multiple studies suggest that proper medication use by patients is one of the most important contributing factors to better outcomes. Yet, a whopping 50% of patients do not take medications as prescribed, according to a study published by the Mayo Clinic.

Patients who are not adherent to their medication regimens have poorer outcomes and higher rates of adverse events. While there are many factors involving medication non-adherence, medication dispensers can help reduce the likelihood of events related to the over-or-under-dosage of prescription medications.

This small, convenient connective care device can store up to 28 days of medication and is customizable for patient-specific dosing. If a scheduled medication dose is missed, it can notify a response center, which contacts the caregiver via text message, email or automated phone call. Not only does this help increase adherence, but it also helps to eliminate the anxiety of managing medications at home while delivering peace of mind to patients, caregivers and families.

Connective care solutions such as RPM, PERS and medication management can help healthcare organizations quickly identify and facilitate more preventative interventions that enhance efficiency, care and outcomes while reducing utilization and care costs. For healthcare organizations looking toward strategies that help lower care costs and reduce unnecessary hospital readmissions, these technologies have been proven both effective and efficient.