Post-Discharge Phone Calls Prevent Hospital Readmissions


Two RIV posters presented at HM13 from University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) hospitalists analyzed outcomes from post-discharge phone calls to patients and found that those who were reached and interviewed by a call nurse had a 33% lower all-cause readmission rate.

UCSF joined SHM’s Project BOOST quality initiative in 2009 and adopted its recommendation to call patients within 72 hours of their hospital discharge, according to co-author Michelle Mourad, MD, assistant professor of clinical medicine and a UCSF hospitalist. “We reached out to about 60% to 70% of our patients with a standard script to address issues associated with readmissions,” Dr. Mourad explains. “We were also lucky enough to build a computer program with quantifiable outcomes in the database.”1

Researchers broke the data down into three categories: those called and interviewed by the nurse; those called who didn’t answer the phone or had a wrong number; and those who were never called due to errors in the administrative list of discharged patients. Interpreting the results is complicated, Dr. Mourad says, because of the challenges of separating factors leading to patients answering the survey from those that affect their readmission risk.

“These phone calls weren’t done in isolation and were part of our overall bridging interventions for patients going home from the hospital,” she says. “We designed the intervention to help people, and we found that 43% of those reached had at least one issue identified in the call for which the nurse tried to help.”

However, whether patients reported post-discharge issues and their responses to specific questions within the interview were not associated with readmission rates. “Does that mean the nurses’ calls are not helping? It either means the nurses are effectively managing these issues to prevent readmissions or that the factors affecting readmissions are more complicated than we currently understand,” Dr. Mourad says.

Larry Beresford is a freelance writer in San Francisco.


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