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Outreach by telephone reduces hospital readmission risk, study finds

BY Alaric DeArment

BLOOMFIELD, Conn. — Reaching out to discharged hospital patients by telephone could help reduce the chances they’ll be readmitted in the future, according to a new study by a healthcare service company.

Cigna announced results of the study of 3,988 patients with gastrointestinal, heart and lower respiratory diseases described as "high-risk" — defined as having an initial discharge major diagnosis of one of those diseases and a stay of three days or more — finding that prioritized, telephonic outreach by health plan case managers following discharge reduced readmission rates by 22%.

"Readmissions of high-risk patients make up a significant portion of healthcare expenses, accounting for 30% of total inpatient costs for private employer health plans," Cigna senior medical director Charles Foreman said. "The lesson learned from the Cigna study is that the timing and prioritizing of readmission intervention to high-risk patients is critical. Prioritizing telephone outreach to high-risk patients based on their discharge date and risk severity significantly reduces the likelihood of 60-day readmissions."

The company conducted a prospective, randomized control study of the effect of hospital discharge planning from health plan case managers on readmissions for high-risk patients. An intervention group of 1,994 patients received outreach and engagement within 24 hours of discharge, and their calls were made in descending risk order to engage the highest risk first. A control group, also with 1,994 patients, received delayed outreach and engagement 48 hours after discharge without call order by risk being applied.

The intent-to-treat, 60-day readmission rate for the treatment group was 7.4% versus 9.6% for the control group, representing a 22% relative reduction in all-cause readmissions.

"Healthcare organizations providing post-discharge telephonic outreach to patients with diagnoses related to heart, gastrointestinal and lower respiratory can use these findings to inform the alignment of their case management resources," Foreman said. "Further study needs to be done to test the prioritization intervention against all major diagnoses to confirm this approach impacts a wider profile of patients."


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ABC elects former Campbell Soup chief to board

BY Michael Johnsen

VALLEY FORGE, Pa. — AmerisourceBergen on Wednesday announced the election of former Campbell Soup president and CEO Douglas Conant to its board, effective immediately. Conant’s election increases the number of AmerisourceBergen directors from nine to 10.

“Doug’s extensive business experience, exceptional leadership capabilities and proven track record for growing brands and businesses make him an excellent addition to our board,” stated Richard Gozon, AmerisourceBergen chairman.

Conant is CEO of ConantLeadership, a firm dedicated to helping improve the quality of leadership in the 21st century. 

From 2001 through 2011, Conant helped lead Campbell Soup Company through a business transformation that generated sales growth, 10 consecutive years of adjusted earnings per share growth, strong cash flow and a high return on invested capital. 

Prior to joining Campbell Soup, Conant served from 1992 to 2000 at Nabisco in a series of senior leadership positions, including president of Nabisco Foods from 1995 to 2000. Conant also worked at General Mills and Kraft earlier in his career.

Conant received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Northwestern University and his Masters of Business Administration from the J.L. Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern.

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Target sees soft Christmas sales

BY Mike Troy

NEW YORK — Weaker than expected December sales at Target will cause fourth quarter profits to come in at the low end of an earlier forecast, the company said.

Sales at Target for the five week period ended December 31, increased 0.8% to $10.2 billion while same store sales were essentially flat, below the company’s guidance which called for an increase in the low single digits. The performance was driven by a low single digit decrease in comparable store transactions, offset by an increase in average transaction size.

"December sales were slightly below our expectations, as strong results late in the month did not completely offset softness in the first three weeks," said Target chairman, president and CEO Gregg Steinhafel. "Similar to November, profitability for December benefited from our continued focus on achieving an appropriate balance between price investments and driving sales, combined with thoughtful inventory management. As a result, we expect Target’s fourth quarter 2012 earnings per share will meet or somewhat exceed the low end of our prior guidance."

Target previously indicated it expects adjusted earnings per share in the fourth quarter to range from $1.64 to $1.74, or $1.45 to $1.55 if expenses related to the company’s 2013 entry into Canada are included.

December’s showing was against a relatively modest prior year increase of 1.6% and marked the second consecutive month that Target has missed its same store sale forecast. In November, the company reported a 1% decline in same store sales that was well below a forecast for a low single digit gain. At that time, Steinhafel assured investors that December comps would be in the low single digits and the company had the right plans in place to deliver seasonal results.

A key aspect of December’s weakness appeared to be weak sell through of the Target/Neiman Marcus Holiday Collection. The unique assortment of exclusive and pricy merchandise did not appear to resonate with customers, judging from 70% markdowns evident at some location where inventory levels remain disturbingly high.

Looking ahead to January, Steinhafel said he expect a low single digit same store sales increase for the comparable four week period. Speaking more broadly about 2013, he noted, "we will continue to focus on profitably growing Target’s market share by combining unique merchandise, convenience, value and an unbeatable guest experience across our stores, online and mobile channels."

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