A new study at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit finds that educating and involving family members in the care of a loved one who has memory loss may significantly reduce hospital readmissions.
When researchers evaluated the strategy in treating 489 patients in its congestive heart failure (CHF) unit, the results were impressive: the 30-day readmission rate dropped to 16 percent from 23 percent - a 30 percent decline. Researchers theorize the decline could have been higher had they studied a larger pool of patients. Mark Ketterer, Ph.D., a clinical health psychologist in the Department of Behavioral Health Services at Henry Ford and the study's lead author, called the strategy "astonishing simplistic but effective."
"Patients with memory loss often don't do well with taking their medication on time, renewing their medication and just coping in their day-to-day surroundings," says Dr. Ketterer. "If they're in a medical setting such as a nursing home, a nurse or other provider is able to monitor them and make sure they're doing these things reliably and consistently."
The study is published online in the American Journal of Accountable Care. Memory loss, or cognitive impairment, affects an estimated 16 percent million Americans and is a well-known predictor of high readmission rates for patients with congestive heart failure, end stage renal disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - conditions with the highest readmission rates.
That number of people with memory loss is expected to increase substantially as the baby boom generation ages past 65.In the Henry Ford study, Dr. Ketterer and his colleagues sought to evaluate the effectiveness of utilizing a health psychology service as part of the care team in the hospital's inpatient CHF unit in comparison to CHF patients treated in two other parts of the hospital without the service.
The service included taking a patient's psychosocial history and baseline mental state and involving family members to "participate as collaborators in coping with this complication of the illness. Researchers evaluated 489 patients, or 17 percent, of total admissions to the Cardiology Teaching unit in 2014.
- Average 30-day readmission rate on the CHF unit was 16 percent.
- Average 30-day readmission rate on a cardiac floor unit was 21.5 percent.
- Average 30-day readmission rate on other patient units was 22.8 percent.