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Transition coaches improve outcomes after patients leave hospitals

Several hospitals in the Midwest are testing new methods that would prevent repeat visits by elderly patients and other vulnerable patients. These measures could reduce the number of hospital negligence claims by protecting patients from common medical problems that may arise after they are discharged from a hospital visit.

These methods include the use of transition coaches, who are nurses or health educators that can prevent simple medical problems from recurring when patients are sent home from the hospital.

Beginning last month, new federal guidelines took effect to start penalizing hospitals for high readmission rates. The Medicare changes, which are a component of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, began after researchers discovered that nearly one in five patients is readmitted into the hospital within 30 days of being discharged from a hospital. Those readmissions are most often caused by medication errors and other mistakes made by physicians, other medical professionals, patients and their caregivers.

This research has prompted physicians to consider what happens to patients after they get home. Instead of simply calling patients to ask whether they understand their medication regime, hospitals are collecting more detailed information that could actually save lives and money. Information shows that most patients are ill-equipped to care for themselves after serious procedures like surgery, so they often end up back in the hospital because of complications.

One hospital in the Midwest has reduced the number of patients that are readmitted to its facilities to less than 10 percent. High-risk patients receive specialized assistance from transition coaches, who provide patients with additional information about heart failure, diabetes, lung and heart disease when patients return home from a hospital stay. The coaches help to clear up any confusion or mistakes patients may be making when they are at home.

Some hospitals claim they are facing financial difficulties that will not permit the employment of a transition coach, but these people could also be critical to avoiding medical malpractice lawsuits that typically accompany incidents of sub-standard medical care at hospitals.

Source: Star Tribune, “Minnesota hospitals are testing ways to reduce return trips,” Maura Lerner, Oct. 11, 2012

  • Our firm provides counsel to those who have been harmed by hospital negligence, medication errors and other incidents of medical malpractice. To learn more about our firm and practice, please visit our Chicago prescription medication errors page.

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