The high rate of hospital readmissions has long been a topic of debate, especially those that are considered avoidable and happen within the first few weeks after discharge.

From an employer’s point of view, these re-hospitalizations can be a source of frustration as they often lead to more extensive medical issues which result in extra claim costs and missed work time … two things that really affect the bottom line. So why have readmissions become so common? Some are unavoidable, of course, but many can be prevented. Two of the top reasons return trips to the hospital occur so frequently are related to less-than-thorough post-release care like surgical complications/infections or a poorly coordinated plan for transition/follow-up after discharge.

As consumers, we obviously can’t control the hospital care process, but there are things we can do to be more proactive and help prevent a re-hospitalization.

1) Communication. If you or a family member winds up in the hospital, make sure the appropriate primary care provider(s) is in the loop so any necessary follow-up appointments or labs/testing can be scheduled. It’s also important to discuss what the most effective plan for care upon discharge looks like. Do you have the resources needed to recover at home or would transitioning to a rehab facility first better ensure proper healing?

2) Education. Being a proactive consumer also means asking questions and educating yourself with information. Before leaving the hospital, it’s important to be clear on several things: the instructions for discharge, when/how to take any medications, what to expect during recovery, any symptoms/side effects to watch for, etc.

The last thing any patient wants after getting out of the hospital is an unexpected trip back just a week or so later. Not every readmission is avoidable, but for those that are, communication and education can go a long way!

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