When families participate in loved ones' hospital care, readmission rates go down: 4 things to know

Hospitals can reduce readmission rates and improve care quality when patients' family members participate in their loved ones' hospital care, according to a study led by researchers at Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare.

Intermountain launched the Partners in Healing program, which allows family members to help provide basic care for their loved ones while they are in the hospital so they are prepared to take over as caregivers when the patient returns home.  

A bedside nurse introduces the program during a patient's initial encounter in the hospital and asks families if they want to participate. Families who choose to participate learn several basic skills appropriate for their loved ones' care. Hospital staff then gives family members a badge to indicate they are part of the care team and can access drinks, snacks, ice and blankets for their loved one.

Hospital staff then tapes a checklist to the patient's door and program participants write what they do. For example, participants may help with breathing exercises, assisting with activity, giving help to the bathroom, measuring urine output or recording how much a patient eats and drinks. The nurse then transfers the data into the patient's computer record.

Here are four things to know about the study.

1. To determine how the program affected hospital readmissions and patient care, researchers examined 30-day all-cause readmissions, 30-day all-cause mortality, length of stay and the number of emergency room visits. In addition, a number of family members who participated in the program completed a feedback survey.

2. The 30-day readmission rate was 65 percent lower for patients whose families participated in the program, which was based on 200 matched pairs of patients. 

3. Participant feedback indicated 92 percent of the patients said the program improved their transition from hospital care to home care.

4. Ninety four percent of participants said they would highly recommend the program to other families, with family members expressing gratitude in the program, feeling empowered by the program and successfully acquiring relevant caregiving skills.

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