Preventing Patient Readmissions Improves Bottom Line Results

June 24, 2009

Organizations that make discharge phone calls reduce non-reimbursable readmissions between 20-30%. Research shows that patient/family likelihood to recommend a hospital is above the 90th percentile when they receive a discharge call. Research shows litigation goes down when a patient receives a phone call after discharge.

So how do organizations execute discharge phone calls?

Who to call:

  • Studies show that unplanned readmissions rank the highest among patients who are suffering from congestive heart failure, pneumonia, and complications from surgical procedures such as heart stents and major hip and knee replacements. As organizations make phone calls to discharged patients, this high-risk group should be the first priority.

When to call:

  • Hospitals see maximum results when calling discharged patients within 24-72 hours of going home. They catch early signs of adverse events, misunderstanding side effects of medication, therapeutic questions, and nosocomial infections.

Who calls:

  • Trained healthcare personnel. The Discharge Call Manager™ software makes it possible to provide high quality calls from non-RN’s, allowing RN’s to provide direct patient care and save organizational dollars. Questions asked during discharge calls can be developed that align with HCAHPS requirements.

What to say:

  • Studer Group recommends including quality-focused questions, such as:
    • Do you have any questions about your discharge (home care) instructions?
    • Do you have any questions about your medications? Are you aware of side-effects? (Mayo Clinic Proceedings study: Only 14% of patients knew medication side effects, 28% knew medication names and 37% knew purpose of medications, August 2005)
    • Do you have your follow-up appointment scheduled?
  • Many organizations ask Unit Specific questions dependent on where the patient received their care. Studer Group will be happy to share successful questions by unit, in addition to populating these into the Discharge Call Manager. Click here to access our Discharge Call resource page and Question Library.


Discharge calls produce better clinical outcomes and are the right thing to do for patients and families. It’s a great way to verify that patients understand post-care instructions which reduce preventable readmissions. Most importantly, lives are enhanced and saved.

For best practices and frequently asked questions about discharge phone calls, contact Rachael Johnson.


6 Responses to “Preventing Patient Readmissions Improves Bottom Line Results”

  1. Jan Severance RN QM Says:

    Hi, Just read with interest the article regarding followup phone calls. At our hospital we definitely see many readmissions of our CHF patients and are “racking our brains” trying to figure out who could do the phone calls. As many hospitals are finding huge budget constraints, we also are trying to tighten our belts—no overtime—-and how do you find the right fit for the job of doing the phone calls?? Any suggestions would be appreciated! Thank you, Jan Severance

    • Don Hoffman Says:


      My area includes three hospitals, the largest is about 400 beds, the smallest about 25. Our priority for who should make the call is as follows (for inpatient units):
      1. The RN who provided the care
      2. The charge nurse
      3. A registered nurse who might be on restricted or light duty due to injury
      In the ED, we use a registered nurse who is on light duty or part time. In our case this RN is dedicated to doing the discharge phone calls because the call load is very heavy, even after we have focused our calling circle to peds, chest pains and flu symptoms

  2. MHuebner Says:

    Recently, I had an interesting discharge phone call experience. Exactly 24 hrs after having eye surgery both my surgeon’s office and the hospital called me. I appreciated the calls but it was a little frustrating to have them so close together.

    Coordination between entities might be a nice addition to discharge phone calls.

    • Don Hoffman Says:

      I would agree, if possible coordination of the discharge phone calls would be optimal, but no always possible due to the physical logistics. It would be a high leverage activity.

  3. Don Hoffman Says:

    Zani Weber, our Studer Group coach, recommends the following in addition to the blog:
    Track the percentage of actual contacts vs. total number of patients called. Voice mail does not count, only patients actually spoken to count as a contact.
    Set a goal of at least 75% contact rate
    To increase contact rate, when discharging the patient, explain the importance of the discharge phone call, that it will be made within 24-48 hours, and that we need a number where we can actually talk to you. Many patients will give a “false-positive” phone number upon admit. Explain that it is very important your nurse talk to you. Also, ask the patient when the best time of day would be to talk to you. Write this information in the file so the nurse calling the patient will know the number and time of day to call.

  4. This is a very good article. The idea of calling discharged patients is very good. Health professionals will make sure their patients are going for a 100% recovery.

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