Involving patient's family in discharge process linked to 25% reduction in hospital readmissions

Integrating an elderly patient's informal caregivers — family members, friends, partners, neighbors and other loved ones — into the discharge process may potentially reduce the patient's likelihood of readmission.

In a study published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society, researchers systematically reviewed 10,715 scientific publications related to patient discharge planning and older adults, with a focus on data published in roughly 15 publications. The selected studies examined 4,361 patients who were 70 years of age, on average. In studies that reported caregiver data, approximately two-thirds of the patients' caregivers were female. Sixty-one percent of the caregivers reported being the patient's spouse or partner.

Researchers found that integrating a patient's family into the discharge process was linked to a 25 percent reduction in readmissions within 90 days and a 24 percent reduction in readmission within 180 days.

However, the 15 studies differed in the extent to which caregivers were integrated into the discharge process, ranging from connecting patients and their caregivers to community resources, to providing written care plans and medication reconciliation, to using learning validation methods, according to the report.

"Due to medical advances, shorter hospital stays and the expansion of home care technology, caregivers are taking on considerable care responsibilities for patients," said Juleen Rodakowski, assistant professor in the department of occupational therapy at the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and one of the study's lead authors. "This includes increasingly complex treatment, such as wound care, managing medications and operating specialized medical equipment. With proper training and support, caregivers are more likely to be able to fulfill these responsibilities and keep their loved ones from having to return to the hospital."

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