It’s an alarming statistic. A study from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) found that 1 in 12 patients is readmitted to a hospital within 30 days of being discharged.
In hospitals, physicians and nurses can monitor patients continuously. Unfortunately, care-related challenges are often compounded in less-controlled environments. At home, patients play a much larger role in managing their own health conditions. Errors and non-compliance are all too common—and the consequences can be serious.
When it comes to reducing readmission rates, setting patients up for success is critical. Post-discharge, telehealth can help.
While many healthcare providers see telehealth as outdated, it’s anything but. Advances in digital technology have enabled providers to offer more effective videoconferencing and information-sharing capabilities.
The potential post-discharge benefits are significant. In this post, we’ll look at three major ways that telehealth can help reduce hospital readmissions.
1) Improved follow-up
An effective follow-up plan often includes patient participation. In many cases, self care activities—such as adhering to medication regiments and dietary restrictions—is crucial to healing. Symptom monitoring may also be key to preventing complications.
Physicians do their best to stress the importance of compliance to patients. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for those without medical training to absorb this information.
As just one example, many patients fail to report worsening symptoms immediately. Getting in touch with healthcare providers can be a hassle, leading many people to put it off.
Luckily, advances in telehealth make it easier than ever before for patients to follow-up. Videoconferencing apps can be especially useful.
A patient who’s suffered from a heart attack may not want to schedule an appointment after a mild twinge in her chest. But what if she could get in touch with a nurse simply by tapping her tablet screen?
By providing quick and simple access to healthcare professionals, digital telehealth solutions have the potential to help patients avoid complications—and resulting trips to the hospital.
Likewise, care coordinators and nurses can check in with patients between home care visits. These check-in sessions can highlight important health issues and changes that might not come up otherwise.
2) On-demand clarification
How well are patients following instructions that could help keep them out of the hospital? It’s an important question. Unfortunately, busy healthcare providers don’t always have time to give it the attention it deserves.
All too often, patients return home to find that they’ve forgotten their self-care instructions. During a time that’s often marked by stress and confusion, it can be difficult to absorb verbal information from a healthcare provider. Many patients also struggle with written discharge instructions.
Comprehension is critical, because certain tasks can be more complex outside of a hospital environment. For example, a patient unaccustomed to using an oxygen mask by herself may have difficulty doing so. Telehealth apps can empower her by making it easy to reach out to a care provider for real-time video assistance.
Of course, comprehension is only part of the problem. Many patients are able to understand instructions, but forget to follow them. Medication is a classic example. In some cases, accidentally skipping doses can lead to complications—and re-hospitalization.
Digital telehealth solutions can solve this problem. Consider the benefits of a videoconferencing app with built-in medication reminders. When a patient fails to adhere to a reminder, a healthcare professional can follow-up with a video call to ensure compliance.
3) Supplementary appointments
In most cases, following up is about more than checking in. It’s true that nurses, personal support workers (PSWs), and care coordinators can assist with specific tasks—and monitor patient wellbeing. But post-discharge appointments with family doctors and specialists are usually also necessary.
That said, in-demand practitioners can’t always see individual patients as often as they’d like. And on the patient’s side, remembering and securing transportation to in-person appointments can be difficult.
Unfortunately, rescheduling isn’t always simple. Missed appointments—and long wait periods—can allow health complications to go unnoticed. The result can be poor health outcomes and eventual hospital readmission.
Telehealth enables practitioners to see more people in less time. The right digital videoconferencing solution can connect physicians with recently-discharged patients in an instant. As a result, it may be possible to provide more supplementary appointments for those who need it most.
Because videoconferencing is convenient, virtual appointments are easy to attend. With telehealth, there’s great potential to cut down on missed visits, which means more patients will receive the specialized follow-up care they require.
Featured image courtesy of Blue Coat Photos