In a recently published study, researchers used Medicare claims and cost data to evaluate spending on specific services to see how those costs are related to quality.

They found that extra spending on occupational therapy (OT) is the only one of 19 services to have a "statistically significant association with lower readmission rates" for three medical conditions: heart failure, pneumonia, and acute myocardial infarction.

The researchers note that OT directly focuses on making sure the patient and his or her caregivers are ready to cope, physically and mentally, with the return home after discharge. Helping ensure a successful transition home is a "vital issue related to readmission rates," according to the study.

From improving home safety to training with assistive devices, OT helps patients safely navigate their homes and communities. Occupational therapists also make sure patients have a support network in place, in part with training and recommendations for family/caregivers so they can provide the appropriate assistance.

According to the researchers, those and other interventions are likely factors in OT's overall success. Their work shows that, for hospitals with an eye on quality improvement and cost effectiveness, spending more on OT at discharge could help reduce the number and costs of hospital readmission.

1. Rogers, A. T., Bai, G., Lavin, R. A., Anderson, G. F. Higher hospital spending on occupational therapy is associated with lower readmission rates. Medical Care Research and Review. 2016 Sep 2.
By Kindred Rehabilitation Services