Improving Discharge & Reducing Admissions Through ... Shopping

/ 22/11/2011 /

Sodexo's Re:sourxe solution puts retail stores in hospitals.

Besides wanting to provide the best patient experience possible, there are significant bottom line drivers now in play. Medicare begins implementing penalties for high readmission rates beginning in October 2012 as part of healthcare reform efforts. National estimates are as high as $17 billion in savings that could be realized by reducing the number and frequency of patients who return to the hospital after being sent home.

Reducing Readmissions
Nationally, about 20 percent of hospitalized Medicare patients return to the hospital setting within 30 days, according to a 2009 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. So it is no wonder that Medicare is looking reducing readmissions as a way to save costs and improve quality.

While the government currently will not pay for a readmission on the same day as a discharge unless it is for an unrelated reason, the new law will allow Medicare to recover payments made for unnecessary readmissions within 30 days of discharge for heart attack, pneumonia and heart failure. Most healthcare leaders expect that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) eventually will add more diseases to the list. The impact could be hefty. In the first year, a hospital's total Medicare payments can be reduced by up to 1 percent. The cap rises to 2 percent the next year, and 3 percent the third year.

Research conducted by Sodexo on bridging the gap between the hospital stay and transition back home revealed that easing the burden on family members is critical. This is especially the case when there is a lack of availability of family and friends to help with recovery and assistance, such as a when grown children are geographically distanced from their parents.

By providing medical items within the hospital, patients and their caregivers have easier access to the medical equipment and supplies, can ask questions of the staff or even go back to their medical team for clarification before leaving the hospital.

"When our mother was ill and coming home we drove across town looking for the supplies the doctors told us we needed," said Todd,* a 42-year-old executive from Washington, DC, who flew to North Carolina to help his mother make the transition. "The stress of not being sure what we needed was compounded by the fact that I was racing around an unfamiliar town." Eventually he found the supplies his mother needed, but only after visiting three different stores.

Retail Solution
Today a retail store solution, Re:sourxe by Sodexo, is providing a discharge service for patients in hospitals such as Presbyterian/St Luke's Medical Center and Childrens Hospital of the Rockies in Denver, CO. Other stores are in process and on the drawing board.

The stores include traditional gifts to help boost morale, but also offer medical supplies that are associated with the specialties of the hospitals. A children's hospital, for example, would carry children's sized bandages, crutches and the like. In addition, the stores stock a full range of convenience items, providing staff who often work irregular hours with any essential items they need.

A case study prepared on the Re:sourxe implementation at Denver's Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center describes how the store is convenient for patients, friends and family and outlines that regular meetings with the store's clinical coordinator with various units within the hospital ensure that everyone is familiar with the store's offerings. Another identified best practice is that the clinical staff receive referral cards that can be used to assist patients during the discharge process.

In addition, the stores are only part of the overall portfolio of services, including the ability to order supplies online and have them delivered to the patient room or home. In this way, additional quantities of needed supplies can be reordered without returning to the hospital.

* Name changed to protect privacy

John T. Friedman is director, public relations and corporate communications for Sodexo, which provides on-site patient experience and outcomes services and solutions for more than 700 hospitals.