Leaders at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., know that calling patients post-discharge goes a long way toward avoiding a preventable readmission. It’s a tactic that’s been supported by research over the years.
But leaders were also aware that such efforts often struggle to reach a critical mass. Case managers were only reaching about 5% of parents whose children were discharged.
“It was labor-intensive and person-dependent,” said Kathy Rigney, director of clinical resource management at Children’s National. “Just making the outreach calls was so time-consuming and we really didn’t reach a lot of people. What was evident was when we did reach people, we were able to make a difference.”
There are financial incentives to focus on readmissions, Rigney added. Although children’s hospitals are excluded from the CMS’ 30-day readmissions penalty program, commercial payers have jumped on board, refusing to pay for readmissions for certain conditions within three, five, seven or 30 days of discharge, she said.
Looking for a way to increase its phone calls post-discharge, Children’s National in 2016 began exploring the use of robocalls. Rigney said over the years she came across hospitals that had tried it but didn’t continue the practice long-term because funding ran out. Using $10,000 in donated funds, Children’s National was able to begin a pilot initiative in March with NRC Health, a Lincoln, Neb.-based company.