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Reducing Heart Failure Hospital Readmissions From Skilled Nursing Facilities

Jacobs, Barbara MHA, BSN, PHN, RN

doi: 10.1097/NCM.0b013e3181f3f684

Purpose/objectives: Readmission rates for heart failure patients are a Center for Medicare & Medicaid and Joint Commission core measure. At this urban Midwestern medical center, the 6-month baseline skilled nursing facility (SNF) readmission rate was 30%. Nurse case management implemented a process to decrease the rate for this population. Follow-up phone calls were in place for patients discharged to home, but a gap remained in those discharged to SNFs. Nurse case management developed a follow-up phone call process within 48 hours of discharge to the registered nurse/licensed practical nurse in the SNFs to verify that:

  1. Daily morning weights were ordered.
  2. Parameters to contact primary care provider if weight gain was greater than 3 pounds per day or 5 pounds per week.
  3. 2 gram sodium restricted diet was ordered.
  4. Appropriate diuretic was ordered and reconciled.
  5. Follow-up provider visits were made, for patient to be seen within 3 to 5 days following discharge.

Primary practice setting: Acute inpatient care settings.

Findings/conclusions: The phone calls resulted in improved continuity of care and clarification of discharge orders. The opportunity for question-and-answer time between the hospital and the SNF nurse provided just-in-time education; relationships have also been strengthened. Recent data show that the current readmission rate averages 11.32% (a decrease from 30%). This nurse case management-driven process of follow-up phone calls between the hospital and SNF staff to reduce readmission rates in heart failure patients resulted in improved continuity of care and clarification of discharge orders.

Implications for CM practice: This simple, innovative process allowed for improved continuity of care and partnerships between inpatient hospitalization and the SNF, thereby reduced transcription errors and improved patient health outcomes. Enhanced communication between providers allowed for a significant reduction in readmissions from SNFs to the hospital.

Barbara Jacobs, MHA, BSN, PHN, RN, currently practices as a Heart Center and Hospitalist Care Coordinator at United Hospital in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She serves on the Heart Failure and Length of Stay Optimization committees and is also a Magnet Champion for Care Management at United Hospital. Her extensive clinical expertise includes Care Management, Telemetry, Critical Care, and Community Clinical leadership.

Address correspondence to Barbara Jacobs, MHA, BSN, PHN, RN, United Hospital, 333 North Smith Avenue, Mail Route 60321, St Paul, MN 55102 (

The author has no conflict of interest.

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© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.