Study: To reduce readmissions, involve caregivers in discharge planning

Integrating caregivers into the planning process of the discharge of elderly patients can significantly reduce 90-day readmission rates, the findings of a new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society suggest.

For the study, researchers conducted a systemic review of previous research designed to assess the effect of caregiver integration in discharge planning on healthcare costs. Across three databases containing 10,715 abstracts of studies related to patient discharge planning, researchers identified 15 that met criteria for inclusion. In total, the 15 studies included 4,361 patients.

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Analysis of the studies revealed integrating informal caregivers — often times spouses or family members — into the discharge planning practice was associated with a 25 percent reduction in the likelihood of an elderly patient being readmitted to the hospital within 90 days of discharge and a 24 percent reduction in the possibility of readmission within 180 days of discharge.

"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. "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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