Technology May Offer Solutions to Hospitalists' Readmissions Exposure


Almost weekly, a white paper, report, journal article, or press release touts a new program, software, or technology system offering to help hospitals improve their readmissions avoidance processes and penalty exposure. Does this new readmissions cottage industry offer value to hospitals?

Some technologies focus on interdisciplinary team communication, with electronic repositories or virtual rounding, automated communications to the PCP, personalized patient instructions booklets, or telecommunications or mobile applications. Others aim to help coordinate patients’ care transitions and providers’ post-discharge outreach, empower patients, increase compliance with discharge instructions, or schedule and coordinate follow-up activities.

An August 16, 2013, blog post at HISTalk identified other technologies and services being employed by advisory panelists’ hospitals to reduce their readmissions, including electronic health record (EHR) vendors, predictive modeling vendors, home-grown analytics reports, decision support, niche software vendors focused on supporting case management, telemonitoring programs, and use of the LACE (length of stay, acuity of admission, co-morbidities, and number of previous ED visits in the last six months) index to identify patients at risk.

“I view these as tools and, like any tool, they can be helpful if they are the right tool for the job, applied correctly,” says Gregory Maynard, MD, MSc, SFHM, clinical professor and chief quality officer at the University of California Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. “In many cases, these tech tools are trying to reproduce virtually what ideally would be done in person—interdisciplinary bedside rounds with the active engagement of the patient.”

Mark V. Williams, MD, FACP, MHM, director of the Center for Health Services Research and vice chair of the department of internal medicine at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, says he’s stunned by the sheer number of entrepreneurial readmissions management programs and systems on the market.

“Obviously, people see a need. But I’m not that sanguine about this new tech stuff,” says Dr. Williams, Project BOOST’s principal investigator.

There has to be some kind of integration with the hospital’s EHR, he says; otherwise, it just makes extra work.

“I wish our existing EHRs had the capacity to develop their own readmissions applications,” he says.

Larry Beresford is a freelance writer in Alameda, Calif.

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