According to a study by Dr. Anne-Marie Audet, vice president for health system quality and efficiency for The Commonwealth Fund, a health advocacy foundation based in Manhattan, “20% of patients who have been hospitalized either end up back in the emergency room or readmitted for acute care within 30 days of being discharged. These included patients who had been treated for heart failure, heart attacks and pneumonia, etc.
While readmission rates are a measure that shows that the system for care is not integrated well enough, it is not necessarily an indication that the hospital is poor quality or the primary care physician is subpar.
"It’s the whole system,” she stated, an issue seconded by British Health Minister Andy Burnham, who acknowledged that the problem is an international one, and not just here in the US.
Still, it is something that needs to be addressed and remedied, although Audet admits that no one has yet come up with a solution to the problem.
“It’s quite a complex issue. But the only way we can achieve better health, better health outcomes and better cost is to bring everyone together.”
While part of the problem both here and abroad may be due to patients who insist on being released early, health officials in both countries have found that many of the cases seem to revolve around poor discharge planning in regard to elderly patients who lack adequate follow-up care (support) when they go home, and end right back where they started.
"No-one wants to stay in hospital longer than they have to. But it is imperative that the pressure to speed up an older person's discharge from hospital is backed up by services in their community,” added Gordon Lishman, director general of Age Concern in the UK, who suggests that government officials need to look into investing more resources into providing better services to assist people recover after leaving the hospital, not only for the elderly, but for all who may not have caretakers available at home.
"Greater investment in services to help people recover after leaving hospital is urgently needed or everyone's lives will be put at risk."