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3 Factors That Improve Patient Outcomes

Analysis  |  By Jennifer Thew RN  
   April 25, 2017

Informal caregivers, postacute care connections, and direct care worker compensation can all influence patient outcomes positively.

Healthcare leaders are constantly on the lookout for ways to improve patient outcomes, especially preventing unnecessary readmissions and staff turnover.

A few recent HealthLeaders articles show how organizations can achieve the goals of value-based care by educating informal caregivers, strengthening connections across the care continuum, and improving direct care worker compensation.

1.Adding Unpaid Caregivers Reduces Readmission Rates

According to the research report Caregiving in the U.S., published in June 2015 by AARP's Public Policy Institute and the National Alliance for Caregiving, about 43.5 million U.S. adults had provided unpaid care to an adult or a child in the 12 months prior to the data collection.

A study in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society has found that these informal caregivers have significant impact on patient outcomes.

Another study found that when unpaid caregivers such as spouses, partners, family members, or friends are included in discharge planning patient outcomes improve.

Adding this Step to Discharge Planning Slashes Hospital Readmissions by 25%

In fact, when unpaid caregivers of elderly patients were systematically integrated into discharge planning there were 25% fewer readmissions at 90 days and 24% fewer readmissions at 180 days.

The interventions used to integrate the caregivers varied. Some connected patients and caregivers to community resources, others focused on medication reconciliation, and others incorporated learning validation like teach-backs to a nurse.

2. Improving Postacute Care Reduces Readmissions

Hospital and healthcare systems are recognizing that consistent care across the continuum is a must in order to meet the goals inherent in value-based care.

Forming strong partnerships with postacute care providers such as skilled nursing facilities is one way to improve patient outcomes and to reduce readmissions. 

Reducing Readmissions From the Postacute Setting, looks at a variety of ways acute care and postacute care facilities are working together to improve patient outcomes including standardizing care with "readmission bundles," using telemedicine to connect SNF nurses with acute care nurse practitioners, and having health system NPs onsite at specific SNFs.

3. Raising Direct Care Workers Wages Improves Care Quality

Good certified nursing assistants are worth their weight in gold, but unfortunately their pay doesn't always reflect that.

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment growth for personal care aides will grow by 26% through 2024 (and by 38% for home health aides), some are currently paid as little as $8.00 an hour.

Direct Care and the High Cost of Low Wages

Low pay can contribute to recruiting and retention woes. High-turnover rates in turn, can affect the quality and consistency of patient care.

In addition to raising wages, other ways organizations can improve direct care employee compensation is by providing healthcare or childcare benefits as well as career growth opportunities.   

Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.

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