Are you taking advantage of one of the most important tools to improve healthcare? Of course, I am referring to the telephone? I know what you are thinking. How can a device Invented in 1876 by Alexander Graham Bell be the newest tool? The fact of the matter is that leading healthcare organizations are using the telephone to improve patient care.

Things Have Changed

In 2009, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that almost one-fifth of Medicare patients were re-hospitalized within 30 days of discharge. To make matters worse, more than one third of patients were re-hospitalized within 90 days. The cost of readmissions was over $17 billion.

As a result of this and other studies, Congress emphasized the reduction in re-admissions when drafting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare.”

Under ACA, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) can withhold hospital payments for excessive re-admissions. This has dramatically increased the importance of post-discharge care. Leading healthcare institutions are developing a multi-pronged strategy to reduce re-admission rates. Because of this, the telephone now plays a critical role in this strategy.

By calling patients after discharge, providers can contact patients or their caregivers shortly after discharge to ensure that they understand and follow their post-discharge instructions. They can ensure that follow-up appointments are made (and kept) and gather feedback on their hospital experience. They can identify those patients at risk for re-admission and put measures in place to reduce the risk.

When implementing a telephone based patient follow-up initiative, hospitals can take a cue from the call center industry to ensure that quality tele-care is provided. In our next blog, we will look at a suite of tools that innovative hospitals use to manage their post-discharge calling efforts and reduce hospital re-admissions.

Who would have thought that something invented over a century ago could play such an important role in healthcare?