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New Study Focuses on Efforts by Hospitals to Reduce Readmissions

According to researchers, a better work environment and improved staffing levels for nurses could lead to fewer hospital readmissions for patients suffering from common health problems such as heart failure, heart attack, and pneumonia.

A study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation used nurse survey data and patient discharge data from California, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania to determine the relationship between hospital readmissions and factors such as the workload, environment, and education levels of the nursing staff. Data was collected from 412 hospitals whose work conditions were then categorized as either good, poor, or mixed. 

The researchers found that hospitals with good working conditions experienced a reduction in 30-day readmissions for patients with heart failure (7 percent), heart attack (6 percent), and pneumonia (10 percent). The data also showed that patients’ care suffered when the nursing staff was spread thin. For each additional patient added to a nurse's workload, the probability of readmission rose by 9 percent for heart attack, 7 percent for heart failure and 6 percent for pneumonia. Highly educated nursing staffs were associated with a 3 percent reduction in readmissions for pneumonia patients, but had no effect on patients suffering from heart conditions.

The study will prove invaluable to hospital administrators, with new provisions of the Affordable Care Act penalizing hospitals for preventable readmissions of Medicare patients. “Our findings indicate that improving nurses’ work environments and reducing their workloads can reduce readmissions for Medicare patients with common conditions,” said lead researcher Matthew McHugh, PhD. “It is certainly worthwhile for hospital administrators to examine these two factors and explore whether they can be optimized to improve patient outcomes and reduce readmissions.”

Is your community finding ways to help hospitals reduce readmissions?  Submit your program for the ALFA 2013 Best of the Best Awards.

Read the article: New Study Shows Improving Nurses’ Work Environments and Staffing Ratios Can Reduce Hospital Readmissions for Medicare Patients or purchase the full study: Hospital Nursing and 30-Day Readmissions Among Medicare Patients With Heart Failure, Acute Myocardial Infarction, and Pneumonia.



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