health Maura Lerner
Most businesses love repeat customers. But for the past two years, Minnesota hospitals have been trying everything they can think of to discourage them.
So far, 83 hospitals have joined a statewide campaign to keep patients from bouncing back too soon, and it seems to be paying off. Last week, the Minnesota Hospital Association estimated that collectively, they prevented 4,570 readmissions in the past two years — by paying more attention to what happens to patients after they go home.
The campaign was prompted by an alarming government statistic: 20 percent of Medicare patients are readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge; often, experts say, for preventable reasons such as medication mix-ups.
In 2011, Minnesota took this on as a statewide challenge, encouraging hospitals to use their creativity to ease people’s transitions home. Basically, they’ve focused on a few key areas to help patients stay out of trouble, said Kathy Cummings, project manager for the Reducing Avoidable Readmissions Effectively (RARE) campaign. Among other things, they’ve found that simplifying discharge instructions, calling people at home and making sure they see their doctor within seven days, all help keep complications at bay, or catch them sooner.
One hospital, Fairview Southdale in Edina, cut its readmission rate in half — and even produced a lighthearted video to explain how. It’s fancifully titled: “Lena’s Hotdish: A Minnesota Recipe for Reducing Readmissions.”
Becky Schmidt, a nurse who cowrote and stars in the video, says it was shot by a film student, Erik Skramstad, for $300 in an office break room to help spread the word. The premise: A friend stops by to ask Lena how her husband, Ole, is doing after his “heart spell.” Lena compares it to making a hot dish, with plenty of inside jokes for Minnesotans.
It’s no YouTube sensation, but it did make the semifinals in a national health care video competition. It may be silly, says Brenda Jaye, the co-producer, but “we wanted to make a serious point.” You can find it at www.tinyurl.com/m8qqbmd.