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Hospitals push to reduce 4.4M preventable re-admissions each year

The Wall Street Journal, June 7, 2011

Can a virtual nurse named Louise help keep patients from landing back in the hospital after they are discharged? The animated character on a computer screen, who explains medical instructions, is one of several new strategies hospitals are using to help patients make the transition to home, including sending patients off with a "Home with Meds" packet of medications and having real-life case managers and nurses monitor patients by phone. It's part of a push to reduce the 4.4 million hospital stays that are a result of potentially preventable re-admissions, which add more than $30 billion a year to the nation's health-care tab, or $1 of every $10 spent on hospital care, according to the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. With hospital stays shorter than they used to be, patients may be sent home in frailer states. They may not understand instructions on how to take care of themselves and face unexpected medical problems after leaving the hospital. More than a third of patients don't get the lab tests, specialist referrals or follow-up care they need.