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More than metrics—the real value of post-discharge calls

The business case for post-discharge phone calls is clear and compelling. Research has proven out how they increase compliance, reduce rates of complications, and improve overall patient satisfaction. One NRC Health partner, in fact, used post-discharge calls to bolster their HCAHPS scores by 3% in just six months.

Figures like that show the obvious benefit of connecting with patients after they leave your facility. But not every success shows up in the numbers. There are subtler reasons to deploy post-discharge calls—and for some of your customers, they could be life changing.

Here are three stories of how healthcare systems used post-discharge calls to dramatically impact the lives of their patients.

Easing fears with a phone call

Leaving the hospital can make for a jarring transition. In a facility, patients take comfort in having trained specialists carefully monitor their conditions around the clock. Re-entering their lives without the benefit of that supervision can leave them feeling adrift and anxious—especially if their condition deteriorates.

That was the case with one patient at a Midwest health system. After being discharged, she came down with a fever, and before long she started feeling worse than she had when she was initially admitted. She even considered going back to the ER if things didn’t improve.

However, a nurse reached out to her before she took that drastic step. The nurse was able to reassure the patient, field her symptoms, and secure an appointment at the hospital’s clinic. As it turned out, the patient had come down with strep throat. With antibiotics and a little time, she felt much better.

In this case, the post-discharge call saved the patient from an expensive and onerous trip to the ER, and spared the hospital a possible re-admission.

Connecting patients with essential resources

It’s a depressingly common phenomenon in healthcare, and one that many clinicians can recognize: low-income patients often do not have the means to secure essential medicines after their hospital stays. This can lead not only to stalled recovery following an admission—it can also aggravate existing conditions.

Through post-discharge calls, the aforementioned Midwest health system found an opportunity to mitigate this problem as well. Recognizing that their patients’ welfare depended on getting the drugs they needed, the organization used follow-up calls with patients to connect them with Dispensary of Hope (DOH), a nationwide charitable medication distributor.

DOH makes use of donations from pharmaceutical manufacturers and unused samples from providers to dispense medicines to needy patients. These patients would have been unfamiliar with the service if they’d never received these calls.

By connecting individual patients with this remarkable nonprofit, the health system now addresses a critical community health concern, prevents avoidable readmissions, and secures the long-term welfare of their patients.

Sometimes even saving lives

Every once in a while, a post-discharge call has an immediate effect. A well-timed phone call can intervene in a moment of crisis.

This happened for one adult patient who was admitted and discharged from a South-Atlantic hospital. A nurse from the organization called the patient’s household to follow up. Instead of the patient, a frightened young girl answered the phone.

The girl was stricken from what she saw in the older patient. Through tears, she told the nurse about slurred speech, a strong headache, and other neurological symptoms. Eventually, the nurse was able to calm the young girl down enough to ask an all-important question: “Can the patient feel both sides of his body?”

When the girl answered that he could only feel his left side, the nurse immediately recognized that the patient was likely having a stroke. She walked the young girl through calling 911, helping her understand what the dispatcher would need to know.

Thanks to the girl’s response (and the nurse’s instructions), emergency medical services picked up the patient within the hour and brought him to the hospital’s emergency room. From there, he was admitted to the ICU. The nurse’s instincts had been correct: he had indeed suffered a stroke.

He went on to make a stunning recovery—and it wouldn’t have been possible without a post-discharge call.

True value, measured in moments

That patient’s story speaks to the true measure of any healthcare service. The post-discharge call brought him back from a life-threatening episode—and more than any business metric, more than any satisfaction statistic, isn’t that the purpose of innovation in healthcare? The stories above show that post-discharge calls have an important clinical—as well as commercial—role to play for healthcare systems.

If you’re interested in learning about the difference post discharge calls could make in your organization, have a look at our Transitions solution.