Context: Comprehensive discharge planning by advanced practice nurses has demonstrated short-term reductions in readmissions of elderly patients, but the benefits of more intensive follow-up of hospitalized elders at risk for poor outcomes after discharge has not been studied.
Objective: To examine the effectiveness of an advanced practice nurse-centered discharge planning and home follow-up intervention for elders at risk for hospital readmissions.
Design: Randomized clinical trial with follow-up at 2, 6, 12, and 24 weeks after index hospital discharge.
Setting: Two urban, academically affiliated hospitals in Philadelphia, Pa.
Participants: Eligible patients were 65 years or older, hospitalized between August 1992 and March 1996, and had 1 of several medical and surgical reasons for admission.
Intervention: Intervention group patients received a comprehensive discharge planning and home follow-up protocol designed specifically for elders at risk for poor outcomes after discharge and implemented by advanced practice nurses.
Main outcome measures: Readmissions, time to first readmission, acute care visits after discharge, costs, functional status, depression, and patient satisfaction.
Results: A total of 363 patients (186 in the control group and 177 in the intervention group) were enrolled in the study; 70% of intervention and 74% of control subjects completed the trial. Mean age of sample was 75 years; 50% were men and 45% were black. By week 24 after the index hospital discharge, control group patients were more likely than intervention group patients to be readmitted at least once (37.1 % vs 20.3 %; P<.001). Fewer intervention group patients had multiple readmissions (6.2% vs 14.5%; P = .01) and the intervention group had fewer hospital days per patient (1.53 vs 4.09 days; P<.001). Time to first readmission was increased in the intervention group (P<.001). At 24 weeks after discharge, total Medicare reimbursements for health services were about $1.2 million in the control group vs about $0.6 million in the intervention group (P<.001). There were no significant group differences in post-discharge acute care visits, functional status, depression, or patient satisfaction.
Conclusions: An advanced practice nurse-centered discharge planning and home care intervention for at-risk hospitalized elders reduced readmissions, lengthened the time between discharge and readmission, and decreased the costs of providing health care. Thus, the intervention demonstrated great potential in promoting positive outcomes for hospitalized elders at high risk for rehospitalization while reducing costs.