The Federal Government recently started to penalize hospitals for discharged patients that end up right back in the hospital within 30 days. The Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP) cuts Medicare reimbursements to hospitals up to 1% for high readmission rates. Last year, those reduced payments totaled about $280 million.
A new study out from the University of Pennsylvania gives hospitals clear guidance on how to reduce readmissions though: increase registered nurse staffing.
The study published in Health Affairs this month compared 1,413 pairs of hospitals and found that facilities that had higher levels of registered nurse staffing were 25% less likely to have a readmission penalty. In fact, every additional hour of care provided by registered nurses per patient day reduced odds of a penalty by 10%.
More nurses means fewer readmissions. Seems obvious doesn’t it? Nurses are typically the first ones to notice when a patient might be developing a problem with their treatment. They’re also the main source of education for patients and families during discharge. A nurse with too many patients is too busy being pulled in different directions to make sure patients are truly ready to go home.
It turns out that nurse staff levels also increase a number of other important quality patient care indicators including mortality, patient satisfaction and patient safety to name just a few.
Any hospital that truly wants to improve its quality measures needs to start by increasing registered nurse staffing. This one change has the most potential to increase quality across the board.