Problem: CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) charges the hospital for every patient readmitted within 30 days of initial hospitalization. This stems from ACA guidelines which punishes the facility for readmissions that they deem preventable. This is a $17 billion problem across the U.S.

Hospitals can lose up to 3 percent of their Medicare payments under the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program.  In 2014, nearly 18% of Medicare patients were admitted within a month of discharge at a cost of $26 billion.

Factors vary leading to readmissions including:

  • Poor compliance in following instructions
  • Lack of medication adherence or confusion about drugs
  • No follow-up with primary care physicians
  • Challenging home environment
  • Lack of understanding in post-discharge instructions

A study by University of California-San Francisco (UCSF),published in the New hair loss England Journal of Medicine, reveals that a full 27% of readmissions are in fact avoidable.

Solution: Communication must be improved between hospitals, patients, doctors and providers. Part of this is improving resources and instructions that patients receive upon discharge. Let’s face it. A patient is unlikely to read all the instruction sheets if they are given a 2-inch thick tome and the physicians are not likely to know the ins and outs of each patient’s recovery. This however changes if both patients and physicians can easily keep in touch with each other.

Enter Telehealth to save the day!

Telehealth provides:

  • Follow-up reminders (which boosts patient compliance)
  • Virtual connection between patients and doctors to provide answers to their questions
  • Video calls offering advice to problems that can be addressed early on before they need hospitalization (through smartphones, computers or tablets)

According to a 2016 Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) survey, connected health tools (mobile and wireless devices) are changing patient care delivery. The survey reported:

67 % of healthcare organizations utilized multiple connected health technology solutions.
58 % used mobile optimized patient portals as an important patient engagement tool in their connected health strategy.
47 % stated that they expect to add additional connected health technologies to their platform.

While telehealth and connected health tools are preventing 30-day readmissions and enabling hospitals to meet guidelines set forth by the CMS and ACA, it is wonderful for both physicians and patients that this process is growing in scope and usage.

Have you been participating in telehealth yet?  What has been your experience?  Share your thoughts in the comment box below.