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How Can Telehealth Reduce Hospital Readmissions?

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Hospital readmission rates are dropping fast, thanks to telehealth software

One response to the pandemic was integrating telemedicine into practices, so clinic staff and patients would be safe from the virus. Specifically, this response brings a ray of hope regarding health outcomes, including those who previously had no access to mental health care. Read on to see how. 

In this post, you’ll find information about:

  • Readmission rates
  • How telehealth is reducing hospital readmissions
  • Telemedicine’s current state

Readmission Rates

Hospitals are required to report readmission rates due to the Affordable Care Act. Unfortunately, they are also one thing that can drive patients away from a hospital. It indicates poor quality of care, and that frightens people. 

Many experts agree that telehealth can reduce hospitalizations. 

After all, hospital readmissions negatively affect all parties involved:

  • The patient

The patient suffers physically, emotionally, and often financially due to lost time at work.

  • The hospital

The hospital’s brand image suffers, and the readmissions penalties posed by the CMS readmissions reduction program were more than half a billion dollars in 2017.

  • The doctor

The doctor’s image also suffers, and hospital readmissions could cause the doctor to lose patients or worse.

  • The patient’s loved ones

Emotional suffering from watching a loved one going in and out of the hospital is common, and the patient’s caretaker might lose time from work. 

  • The patient’s employer and coworkers

Lost time at work can impede business growth, and teams need all members to function well. 

Thankfully, 76% of hospital readmissions are preventable. Before the world could watch telehealth reduce hospitalizations, the public needed to be ready for it. Due to COVID-19, they’re ready now. 

How Telemedicine is Reducing Hospital Readmissions

  1. Remote Patient Monitoring
Senior Patient Using Telemedicine App
Senior Patient Using Health Monitoring App

One thing responsible for hospital readmissions reduction is remote patient monitoring by physicians overseeing patients throughout their recovery. 

Many physicians are utilizing remote patient monitoring by providing the patient with wearable or implantable devices. These devices keep track of the patient’s vital signs. So if anything is off, the physician can catch it early and address the issue.

A study on implantable devices for high-risk cardiac patients revealed a reduction in readmission rates from 25% to 17%. In addition, the patients from the study said they felt empowered by the devices and were more likely to reach out to their care team following the study. 

2. Replacing in-office follow-up visits with telemedicine consultations

The care team can act upon data indicating issues for the patient in real-time, meaning problems get solved. And the care team can virtually communicate with the patient regularly to prevent the patient from an infection acquired in-office. 

3. Screening patients for high-risk of complication using data analytics

When data indicates that the patient is likely to have complications, the physician can set up a follow-up schedule to prevent complications. 

Data analytics can also pinpoint patients who forget their medication. When the device indicates the patient’s habit of missing medications, the physician can recommend medication reminder apps to ensure that they adhere to their medication schedule. 

4. Prevention of hospital-acquired infections

With the harmful pathogens located inside hospitals, risking a hospital-acquired infection is unnecessary. Follow-up visits completed virtually are safer and can prevent infection. 

5. Improving outcomes through patient education

Patients who learn about their conditions can use that knowledge to improve their quality of life and prevent some possible comorbidities that often occur with their disorder. For example, Health IT Answers cites cardiac and diabetic conditions improvement due to using technology to educate patients. 

6. Better care for the elderly and patients with disabilities

For those with mobility issues, getting to the hospital is a hassle. But, at the same time, these people need care. With telemedicine, patients can see their physician remotely, and they can avoid risky office visits.

7. Monitoring the patient for signs of mental health issues

In today’s landscape, mental health is a serious issue and occurring more than usual. What hasn’t changed is the possibility of patients developing mental health issues like anxiety and depression following an infection, injury, or procedure. Many limit the patient from moving around as usual- not just mobility, but also in society. Humans are social creatures and require a healthy social life to be in good health. 

Monitoring the patient’s mental condition can help the physician prevent mental health issues. Anxiety and depression can initiate a roller coaster ride for the patient’s treatment- the cycle of getting better, then worse, then back to the hospital, etc. 

Did you know?

Nami.org states that those with depression are 40% more likely to develop cardiovascular and metabolic issues in the future. 

In 2019, around 18% of adults in the United States developed substance abuse disorders due to their mental health disorders. 

Telemedicine’s Current State

In 1979, The Lancet suggested that phone-based doctor visits could reduce the need for many in-office appointments. However, it’s been a slow transition into telehealth since then. While various experts have recommended telehealth, there wasn’t much of a response by the majority. 

In comparison, the speed of telehealth’s acceptance during the COVID-19 pandemic was incredible! 

According to The Commonwealth Fund, before the pandemic: 

  • Around 10% of the population utilized telehealth services 
  • Only about 18% of physicians used the technology 

A recent survey indicated that telehealth companies had seen a 175% growth in the number of customers. And this number is expected to grow for the foreseeable future. 

One area in which research supports telemedicine emphatically is telemental health or providing behavioral and mental health services via technology. The amount of research supporting telemedicine’s use for mental health services is robust.

Also Read – Using Telehealth for Mental Therapy Appointments

While much of telemental health took place in rural areas before COVID-19, that’s not the case anymore. Instead, there’s upward momentum in the adoption of telemedicine technology! 

Key Takeaways

Telehealth companies have seen a drastic increase in their technology adoption. Also, some of the ways telemedicine is decreasing the number of hospital readmissions are monitoring the patient for mental health issues, improved care for the disabled and elderly, and prevention of hospital-acquired infections. As technology progresses, telehealth software will reveal many more ways that it helps medical professionals.