Post-Discharge Follow-Up Isn't Just for Hospitalizations: The Value of Contacting ED Patients

As hospitals are under pressure to reduce potentially avoidable readmissions, many hospitals are learning the importance of consistent follow-up with patients after discharge. However, less attention is paid to the value of following up with patients after emergency department visits. Monitoring post-discharge ED patients can have significant benefits, including the reduction of potentially avoidable hospitalizations, increased patient satisfaction and reduced risk. In fact, a recent study in Annals of Emergency Medicine found ED patients who were contacted after discharge had an average satisfaction score 8.3 percentage points higher than patients who were not contacted.

Dr. Tom Scaletta ismedical director at Edward Hospital and president of Smart-ER.Helping patients, helping the hospital

Contacting patients after their ED visit has two main benefits to both patients and hospitals. By asking simple questions, such as whether patients feel better or worse than they did at the ED, and how patients would rate their satisfaction, ED leaders and staff can gain insight into patients' medical condition and the culture of the ED, according to Tom Scaletta, MD, department chair and medical director at Edward Hospital in Naperville, Ill., and president of Smart-ER.


By following up with patients after their ED visit, staff can identify any problems patients have, such as continuing pain or inability to pay for a prescription, and take steps to remedy the situation and avoid a possible hospitalization. ED leaders and staff also have an opportunity to get patients' feedback on their experience, which can guide improvements in ED operations and communication. Dr. Scaletta says getting patients' feedback on their ED experience can affect the ED staff's satisfaction. Positive ratings "builds them up" and lower ratings can motivate leaders and staff to improve, he says.

Surveying patients via two channels
Dr. Scaletta suggests contacting ED patients post-discharge both electronically and by telephone to capture as many patient responses as possible. In addition to facilitating the workflow of hospital staff calling patients by phone, Smart-ER sends patients a link to an online self-assessment through email and text messaging. More than half the patients who are sent the link complete the survey, making electronic surveys an effective strategy for reaching them, according to Dr. Scaletta.

By focusing on both post-hospital and post-ED discharge, hospitals can improve patients' health, improve their quality of care and lower costs.

For more information on Smart-ER, visit the website at smart-ER.net or contact Dr. Scaletta at Tom.Scaletta@smart-ER.net.

More Articles on Post-Discharge Follow-Up:

Why Improving Communication May Be the Key to Reducing Readmissions
Study: Contacting Patients After ED Visit Increases Satisfaction

Study: Medicare, Medicaid Patients More Likely to Have "Bounce-Back" Admissions After ED Discharge

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