Social Work Cuts Readmissions in Half in New Study

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Karen Utterback By Karen Utterback 
Former Vice President, Product Marketing and Strategy, McKesson (Retired)

Social Work Reduces Readmissions, Study ShowsA project in Binghamton, N.Y., makes a strong case for homecare agencies and hospitals to work more closely together. The program used social work students to keep recently discharged patients out of the hospital, and early results show the approach reduced readmissions by more than half.

A group at the Department of Social Work at Binghamton University, headed by Chair Laura Bronstein, created an interdisciplinary training program to help social workers and clinicians better understand each other’s challenges when it comes to improving patient health.

Bronstein’s students called patients who had recently been released from United Health Services’ Wilson Medical Center and arranged to visit them. They were instructed to find out how the patient was feeling, determine medication use and possible side effects, and assess the home environment for fall risks. The students also made sure the patients followed up with their primary care physician.

Data was collected from 100 patients living independently but at high risk for readmission, over a two-year period. Participants in the experimental group experienced a 7% readmission rate; the control group experienced a 15% return rate. On average, United Health Services has a readmission rate of 18%, about half the national average. Bronstein presented the just-completed research in April at the National Association of Deans and Directors of Social Work meeting and is preparing it for submission to a journal.

Armed with this data, home health agencies could make a strong case for forming partnerships with hospitals to reduce readmission rates through social work and other follow-up activities.

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