While it is not exclusively a rural health issue, hospitals across the nations struggle with the issue of how to reduce readmissions. The impact of “frequent fliers” who are readmitted to a hospital shortly after discharge can be disproportionally large on a small Critical Access Hospital.
A study recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (Interventions to Reduce 30-Day Rehospitalization: A Systemic Review) sheds some light on this issue by reviewing 43 studies which had previously studied this topic. The authors divided interventions into three categories: predischarge interventions, postdischarge interventions and interventions which bridge the transition of care.
The authors did not identify a single intervention or a grouping of interventions which appears to reduce hospital readmissions. Moreover, they commented on the poor quality of studies in their review. However, they did say that “promising approaches exist and merit additional investigation” including postdischarge telephone calls. It is interesting that in this day and age of advanced healthcare technology that something as simple as a telephone call and asking a patient how they are doing might be the most effective way to reduce hospital readmissions. If this is the case, then rural hospitals are in a perfect position to utilize this approach.
For more information on this study, go to: http://www.annals.org/content/155/8/520