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Readmissions Battle Gets Help from Tech

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, March 27, 2012

Last week's column on the shortcomings of some EMRs hit a nerve, and introduced what will be a continuing theme for me going forward: pointing out technology that makes other industries look good, but has yet to really impact healthcare.

The example I gave last week of such a technology was "big data," which marketing mavens are tapping to delve into the psyches of their customers to help them figure out what customers want even before the customers know.

This week's example comes from the travel and leisure industry, where a cornucopia of online choice and scheduling make vacation planning a breeze—a far cry from the days when travel agents (however skilled) made vacation planning tedious at best, and woefully misinformed excursions at worst.

Nurses and others involved in the hospital discharge process are still acting as healthcare's travel agents today, as they labor to find care for patients being discharged. The process is labor-intensive, taking nurses away from the care they need to provide and instead chaining them to telephones and fax machines requesting patient transfers to this long-term care facility or that nursing home.

If that facility turns out to be a poor fit, it can become a factor in high readmission rates to hospitals. It's a shame to think after all that non-nursing-skilled labor, nurses could be inadvertently contributing to readmissions.

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