Avoiding Hospital Readmissions

by Matilda Charles

Question: What’s worse than being admitted to the hospital? Answer: Being readmitted quickly after being released. Far too often, just when we’re out of the hospital, something happens and we’re right back where we started. It’s expensive, and those who study these things have looked at the reasons for frequent hospital readmissions.

Here are some of the statistics from the Center for Studying Health System Change:

–About 8 percent of adults go back into the hospital within a month, and one-third within a year.

–One-third of us don’t see a doctor, nurse or anyone else within a month of being released from the hospital. After 90 days, 17 percent of us still haven’t seen a doctor.

–Those of us who don’t see a doctor are at a higher risk for going back into the hospital, especially those who also have other medical conditions. The sicker the patient, the higher the rate of return.

It doesn’t matter what kind of insurance we have.

Researchers say new ways must be found to bridge the gap between the doctors and hospitals. At this point, even where there are programs and coordinators to manage the discharge process, it hasn’t changed the rate of readmissions. There’s one additional, potentially serious glitch: One-third of doctors did not have the final hospital report on patients who did come in. And if they did have them, the reports were incomplete, and new medications might not be listed.

Here’s a suggestion to keep from being readmitted: When you leave the hospital, make a nurse write down your prescriptions and instructions for aftercare. The minute you get home, call your doctor. Make the earliest appointment possible, and take your instructions.

Matilda Charles regrets that she cannot personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into her column whenever possible. Write to her in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send e-mail to columnreply@gmail.com.

(c) 2012 King Features Synd., Inc.

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