Oct. 30—Three-quarters of hospitals have or plan to establish relationships with a home healthcare provider as part of their efforts to reduce readmissions, according to a recent survey.

The September survey of 106 hospital and health system executives found 60 percent have established successful relationships with home healthcare providers, 6 percent are considering changing their home healthcare partners, and 8 percent were planning to select a home healthcare partner.

On the other hand, 8 percent have not decided whether to partner with a home healthcare provider, and 18 percent have opted against such a partnership, according to the survey.

Analyzing the Results

The findings of the survey by HealthLeaders Media Intelligence Unit in collaboration with home healthcare provider Amedisys surprised Michael Fleming, MD, chief medical officer for Amedisys, who expected more post-acute focus in light of growing readmissions penalties.

“I think more hospitals don’t do this because they think [readmission are] something they can control,” Fleming said about readmissions efforts at hospitals.

Less popular with the surveyed hospitals were post-discharge strategies that have garnered much more attention. For instance, 56 percent of hospitals said they either were providing care navigators or coaches for high-risk patients and hospital to home care transition programs.

The survey of leaders at 44 hospitals and 31 health systems nationwide demonstrated that most see the importance of established relationships with post-acute providers. Specifically, 73 percent of respondents said partnering with home healthcare providers was a key strategy to lower their preventable readmissions. Slightly fewer—64 percent—listed partnering with long-term care and skilled nursing facilities were a core component in the readmissions reduction strategy.

Fleming said a growing body of research underscores the importance of post-discharge care for high-cost conditions and the need for clear communications between the providers at various stages of care. For instance, an October study published by Health Services Research concluded that hospital patients discharged to skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) are less likely to be readmitted within 30 days when their hospitals have strong connections with the SNFs to which they are transferred.

Hospitals most frequently relied on their own internal data (58 percent) and their staff experience with a home healthcare provider (52 percent) when selecting a home healthcare partner. Comparatively few (42 percent) relied on Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services-reported post-acute hospitalization rates in selecting a partner. 

Publication Date: Wednesday, October 30, 2013