Working together, teammates are making strides toward lowering 30-day readmissions - the number-one quality and patient goal of the System.

Lowering 30-day readmissions is the number-one quality and patient goal of the System.  

“When someone leaves a hospital, the last thing they want is to have to come back,” said John E. Barkley, MD, FCCP, chief medical officer, Continuing Care Services at Carolinas HealthCare System. “Over the years we’ve seen incremental improvements in our 30-day readmittance rates, and we’re definitely getting better. We’re aiming for the top percentile, and we’re taking the right steps.”

Helping patients who often have multiple chronic conditions understand how critical it is to pay attention to care instructions and lifestyle choices helps address the issue of readmission. According to Dr. Barkley, reports show two-thirds of traditional Medicare recipients have multiple chronic conditions, with 4 million of them having six or more.

“It can be difficult for patients to know what to do, so health literacy is huge,” said Dr. Barkley. “It’s key that we give patients the right information and make sure they really understand how the various medications they’re taking work together. Making sure they do the things, on their own, that are going to help them is a critical task.”

Dr. Barkley and James Hunter, MD, CMO, co-chair The Readmissions Work Group. The group of 30 includes representatives from the ambulatory environment, nursing homes and home health agencies. They will meet monthly to plot next steps over the next several years. “The expected ratio for 30-day readmissions is no more than 5 percent,” said Dr. Hunter. “That’s our target.” 

“There are some things we can do as a System to help,” said Dr. Barkley. “Reconciling medications, giving patients timely access to follow-up appointments and ensuring warm hand-offs to specialists. We feel that these actions, along with aggressively engaging people in our quality operation and leaders in these areas, will help us move forward.”