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Better Management of Drugs Could Reduce Medicare Readmissions, Study Suggests

More effective management of patients’ post-discharge prescription drugs could reduce unnecessary hospital readmissions among Medicare patients, a new report suggests.

According to “Thinking Outside the Pillbox,” published by NEHI (previously the New England Healthcare Institute), problems managing prescription medications are among the chief causes of readmissions among Medicare patients who return to the hospital shortly after their discharge.

Among the causes of these problems are patient confusion, lack of family and social support, difficulty scheduling timely medical follow-up, and the lack of information among caregivers about other prescriptions their patients may be taking.

Hospitals now face penalties from Medicare if they have what are considered too many post-discharge readmissions.  The National Association of Urban Hospitals (NAUH) has conveyed its objections about this program to Medicare officials, citing the added challenges that urban safety-net hospitals face because they serve especially large numbers of patients who have had limited access to care in the past and now suffer more complicated medical problems while facing limited community resources to help with their recovery.  NAUH has maintained that the program needs greater risk adjustment to treat all hospitals fairly.

Among the ways NEHI recommends addressing this problem are greater use of electronic prescribing, better communication among providers and with patients’ families, and better support from community nurses and pharmacists.

Find a summary of “Thinking Outside the Pillbox,” and the complete report, here Prescription Medication Spilling From an Open Medicine Bottleon the NEHI web site.

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