Including unpaid caregivers also leads to shorter rehospitalizations and lower costs of post-discharge care, researchers say.
Systematically integrating informal, unpaid caregivers into discharge planning for elderly patients was associated with 25% fewer readmissions at 90 days and 24% fewer readmissions at 180 days, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
In control groups, no caregiver integration occurred.
"While integrating informal caregivers into the patient discharge process may require additional efforts to identify and educate a patient's family member, it is likely to pay dividends through improved patient outcomes and helping providers avoid economic penalties for patient readmissions," senior author A. Everette James, JD, MBA said in a statement.
James is director of the University of Pittsburgh's Health Policy Institute and its Stern Center for Evidence-Based Policy.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Health Policy Institute systematically reviewed 10,715 scientific publications related to patient discharge planning and older adults.
Their meta–analysis focused on the 15 publications describing randomized control trials that included enough relevant information and data to draw insights into the influence of discharge planning on hospital readmissions.
The studies included 4,361 patients with an average age of 70 years. Based on studies that included caregiver data, it was learned that:
- 66% of the caregivers were female
- 61% were a spouse or partner
- 35% were adult children
Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders.