Virtually every hospital system in the country deals with the challenge of readmissions, especially 30-day readmissions, and it’s only getting worse. “With the changes in healthcare and length of stay becoming shorter, patients are being discharged sicker than they used to be,” says Kevin Tolliver, MD, FACP, of Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital Outpatient Care Center. “At our large public hospital system in Indianapolis, we designed an Internal Medicine Transitional Care Practice with the goal of decreasing readmission rates.”
Since October 2015, patients without a primary care doctor and those with a high LACE score have been referred to the new Transitional Care clinic. The first step: While still hospitalized, they meet briefly with Dr. Tolliver, who tells them, “‘You’re a candidate for this hospital follow-up clinic; this is why we think you would benefit.’ Patients, universally, are very thankful and eager to come.” The patients have their follow-up appointment scheduled before they are discharged.
At that appointment, the goal is to head off anything that would put them at risk for readmission. “We have a pharmacy, social workers, substance abuse counselors, diabetes educators—it’s one-stop shopping to address their needs,” Dr. Tolliver says. “Once we ensure that they’re not at risk for readmission, we help them get back to their primary care doctor or help them get one.”
Data for the clinic’s first four months show those patients who met with Dr. Tolliver before leaving the hospital were 50% more likely to keep their hospital follow-up visit. “That’s significant, particularly for us, because we take care of an indigent population; the no-show rate is usually our biggest challenge,” he says. Patients who were seen had a 30-day readmission rate of about 13.9%, while those who qualified but weren’t seen had a readmission rate of 21.8%.
“That has all kinds of positive consequences: less frustration for providers and patients and huge financial implications for the hospital system as well,” Dr. Tolliver says. “That there are these new models of post-discharge clinics out there and that there’s data suggesting that they work, particularly for a high-risk group of people, I think is worth knowing.”