Healthcare Headlines Blog

Promoting Patient Recovery through Care Coordination

By Sean R. Muldoon, MD, MPH, FCCP, Chief Medical Officer, Kindred Hospitals

Executive Summary

Medically complex patients tend to experience longer recovery journeys and are more likely to readmit to the ICU after hospitalization. For these patients, it is essential to reduce setbacks and readmissions. Learn about two care coordination strategies that can improve recovery and how Kindred Hospitals are taking them a step further.


As America’s hospitalized patients become increasingly complex, so does their treatment. Today, over 27% of American adults have two or more serious chronic conditions, and that percentage is expected to grow as the population ages1. When medically complex patients require hospital care, they tend to experience longer recovery times than other patients do and are more likely to readmit to the ICU2. For these patients especially, it is essential to mitigate external contributors to extended recovery times and readmissions, such as miscommunication and disorganization in care delivery. The implementation of care coordination programs is one approach to promoting full and timely recovery.

Read this white paper to learn about two care coordination strategies that are improving outcomes for medically complex patients.

Research into contributors to recovery setbacks

  1. Adverse events: an average of 10% of patients in a hospital will experience at least one adverse event, 50% of which are deemed avoidable3
  2. Discharge delays: Studies have demonstrated an association between unnecessary discharge delays and negative outcomes such as mortality, infections, depression, and reduced patient independence4.
  3. Avoidable readmissions: Approximately 27% of 30-day post-discharge hospital readmissions are considered avoidable5. Such readmissions cost hospitals an estimated $26 billion annually in care, and an additional $521 million in Medicare penalties in 2022.6,7

Internal coordination can reduce patient setbacks

One strategy for combatting patient setbacks is to break down clinical silos within a care setting and increase coordination across various hospital departments.

Medically complex patients with multiple comorbidities often require a team of specialists who can address the different facets of their conditions. As more caregivers become involved in the patient’s treatment, there is an increased risk of miscommunication, which studies have found to be one of the primary causes of adverse and even sentinel events8.  

When physicians, respiratory therapists, dieticians, bedside nurses, and others formally collaborate as an interdisciplinary care team to develop a comprehensive treatment plan, they are able to more effectively treat their patients. This level of coordination has been shown to improve outcomes in ICUs9,10

The benefit of interdisciplinary care team (ICT) collaboration is particularly clear when looking at patients requiring mechanical ventilation. One study found that when interdisciplinary teams of caregivers collaborated on long-term weaning plans, the result was a decrease in mortality and time on ventilator11.

When physicians and caregivers approach each patient’s treatment as a team, they can improve outcomes and decrease patient setbacks.

External coordination can improve access to appropriate level of care

Care coordination between the current provider and external health entities is another initiative that can improve outcomes and decrease readmissions.

The AHRQ defines this care coordination as, “a patient- and family-centered, team-based activity designed to assess and meet the needs of patients, while helping them navigate effectively and efficiently through the health care system”12.

Initiatives to improve external coordination can be implemented at various stages and levels of care. For medically complex patients that may require treatment after their initial hospital discharge, this can occur between post-acute care (PAC) providers and payers.  When these entities collaborate to ensure patients receive the appropriate level of treatment for their clinical needs, they promote patient recovery and minimize discharge delays and readmissions.

Here are two examples of how care coordination programs can improve outcomes:

Overcoming barriers to discharge

In some cases, patients may clinically be ready to discharge to a lower level of care, but are unable to do so because they require special accommodation or because the subsequent care setting does not have capacity. When providers from different levels of care and payers work together, they can remove these barriers and help advance the patient along the care continuum.

Aligning medical necessity and the care setting

Medically complex patients may benefit from remaining in a more specialized care setting. If these patients do not receive the intensity of treatment they need from the outset, there is an increased likelihood of care disruptions and of readmission further along the recovery journey. Clear communication between all entities leads to a more comprehensive understanding of the patients’ clinical needs and ensures that patients have access to the care they require, thereby reducing readmissions in the long run.

How Kindred Hospitals’ Programs are Bringing Caregivers and Partners Together

ICT Bedside Rounding

Kindred Hospitals’ interdisciplinary care teams of physicians, ICU/CCU-level nurses, respiratory therapists, and rehabilitation specialists collaborate to develop patient-specific care plans, which can help maximize potential for healing and minimize length of stay.  

As part of their advanced care delivery model, Kindred’s interdisciplinary care goes above and beyond standard practice by including the patient and family in the team. The physicians and clinicians gather at the patient’s bedside daily to discuss patient and family goals, milestones, and progress, and to provide education and answer questions. This not only improves patient and family experience but also increases patient understanding and adherence to treatment plans which can further reduce avoidable readmissions. 

Care Coordination Meetings

Kindred Hospitals also understand the importance of open communication with downstream providers and payers. As such, they have developed a program of care coordination meetings with payers that have many members at Kindred.

During this time, medical directors and utilization management nurses can ask Kindred case managers specific questions about each of their patients in Kindred’s care, allowing them to get a more complete picture of the patient’s needs. Kindred can also discuss barriers to discharge and payers can provide network access where necessary to facilitate patient advancement. 

In some cases, these discussions may lead to care conferences between Kindred, the payer, and the patient and family in which the parties can answer the family’s questions and guide the patient along the path to recovery. These care coordination efforts help ensure that patients receive the appropriate level of care, promoting recovery and mitigating risk of readmission.

If you have a patient in need of continued acute care after a hospital stay, call a Kindred Clinical Liaison for a patient assessment. Our experts will help you determine whether an LTACH stay is appropriate for your patient. If you are unsure of who your Kindred representative is, please feel free to contact us via recoveratkindred.com and speak with a Registered Nurse who can assist.


References

    1. https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2020/20_0130.htm
    2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7392362/
    3. ttps://bmchealthservres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12913-018-3335-z
    4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28898930/
    5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3080556/
    6. https://www.healthstream.com/resource/blog/the-economic-emotional-cost-of-hospital-readmissions
    7. https://khn.org/news/article/hospital-readmission-rates-medicare-penalties/
    8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4526935/
    9. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2018-23205-013
    10. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0964339717302148
    11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22875526/
    12. https://www.ahrq.gov/ncepcr/care/coordination/atlas/chapter2.html
By Sean R. Muldoon, MD, MPH, FCCP, Chief Medical Officer, Kindred Hospitals