Reducing Hospital Readmissions by Effectively Treating Mental Health Disorders
Readmission to the hospital 30 days after release is more common for patients with serious mental illness, especially those with mood disorders and schizophrenia. Understanding how to reduce hospital readmissions is essential in providing better outcomes for people struggling with these illnesses. Families can get involved to make sure a loved one has a smooth transition to long-term residential care. This helps ensure that the patient gets the effective mental health care necessary to manage symptoms and prevent relapses that could lead to another hospitalization.
Hospitalization for mental illness is only meant to be a short-term solution to a long-term problem.
Patients in the hospital or in a psychiatric ward for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or another serious condition are there to be stabilized.
It is not a long-term solution to managing that mental illness. Without ongoing treatment, many patients will be re-hospitalized, a situation that is both costly and stressful.
If you have a loved one who has been hospitalized, push for residential care, which is an effective way to provide patients with the experiences, tools, and resources needed to manage symptoms and avoid recurring mental health crises.
Hospital Readmissions for Serious Mental Illness Are Common
Being readmitted to the hospital or psychiatric unit for mental illness is not ideal. A readmission means that the patient is not effectively managing symptoms and episodes. He or she is not stable. Poor control over a serious mental illness can trigger all kinds of issues and complications, from declining physical health to relationship difficulties to the inability to hold a job, and even potentially homelessness or suicide.
Readmission, though, is unfortunately common. In one recent study, researchers looked at millions of hospitalized patients to compare readmission rates. Among patients with serious mental illness, 23 percent were readmitted within 30 days, while the rate for patients without serious mental illness was just 14 percent.
Even after controlling for other variables, the researchers determined that patients with serious mental illnesses, like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression, were at a significantly increased risk of going back to the hospital within the 30 days after release. What this illustrates is that many patients struggling with mental health are not getting the long-term care they need to stabilize, manage symptoms, and avoid hospitalization.
Reducing Hospital Readmissions With Mental Health Care
Even patients who are admitted to the hospital for reasons other than mental illness can benefit from mental health care and avoid or reduce the risk of being readmitted. One study looked at patients with comorbid chronic physical conditions and mental illnesses. They found that mental health interventions after hospitalization reduced their readmission rates for their physical conditions.
What these findings indicate is that by treating and managing mental illnesses, patients are better able to manage their physical health conditions. They are more likely to take their medications, stick with healthy lifestyle changes, and follow their doctor’s’ instructions for reducing symptoms or preventing recurrences. The patients benefited from post-hospitalization care that included individual and group therapy and specific management protocols for depression.
Managing the Transition to Care
It is clear that ongoing care for patients is essential for preventing or reducing the risk of readmission to the hospital. But sometimes it’s easier said than done. Experts in mental health care are searching for better ways to ensure those patients do get ongoing treatment and stick with it. One important area of focus is the transition between types of care, such as the hospital and a residential treatment facility.
Hospitals and caregivers need to do a better job managing this aspect of care, but parents and family can take charge, too. If you have an adult child hospitalized for mental health issues, start planning while he or she is still admitted. Talk with staff, including psychiatrists, social workers and others, to develop a plan for aftercare that can be put into action immediately following discharge. Talk to hospital staff and those at a residential facility to plan for:
- Ongoing residential treatment
- Monitoring medications
- What to do in the event of a crisis reoccurrence
- Any barriers to continuing care in a residential facility
- Engaging the patient in future plans
By addressing any potential issues and making a solid plan, family can help the patient transition to needed care after hospitalization and reduce the risk of being readmitted.
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How to Prevent Hospital Readmissions by Involving Family in Every Step
Having a support system in place for patients transitioning out of hospitalization is important. Family can be a huge help in the transition process, ensuring the patient gets into a residential center for ongoing treatment, but they are also important players during that care. Family can provide social support as well as practical assistance. They can also act as advocates for the patient.
Families should be encouraged to get involved, but they can also be proactive if not pushed to provide active support. Communicate with doctors about medications and appointments, ask questions for clarifications, and visit the treatment facility to participate in any family activities or therapy with your loved one. Your loved one will be more likely to stick with treatment and get the help he or she needs to manage serious mental illness and avoid being re-hospitalized if you are involved and supportive.
The Importance of Patient Engagement
Getting family involved is an important part of more effective mental health care, but also essential is patient engagement. In determining how to reduce hospital readmissions and provide better overall outcomes, experts have found that keeping patients engaged in their own care and wellness is important. Patients who are not involved or engaged are at a greater risk of dropping out of treatment, to have relapses of symptoms, and to be re-hospitalized.
Studies have found that engagement increases when patients are empowered and given some autonomy. In other words, they need to be allowed to make choices about their own care and get involved in setting goals for treatment. Also important is addressing a patient’s practical needs, like work and housing after treatment. When patients see the practical outcomes of care, they will be more engaged.
Both families and caregivers can increase engagement. As a family member helping transition a patient from the hospital, you can provide her with options for the next treatment step. You can also help her find solutions to practical problems she may face, like finding a job.
If you have an adult child or other family member being hospitalized for a mental health crisis, that person is at risk of going through it again if he or she does not get good, long-term care after stabilization. You can play an important role in reducing that risk by helping plan for residential treatment, smoothing the transition, and providing emotional and practical support.
Our Mental Health Facilities
Constellation Behavioral Health is proud to be a leader and innovator of mental health services. Our integrated, shared system of care ensures quality of care across all of our facilities, with a distinct focus on providing a robust differential diagnosis, cultivating personal agency, and working closely with families and healthcare providers to ensure the best chance for lasting recovery. Coordination and collaboration of staff across our different facilities contribute to consistency of quality and shared treatment philosophies.
BrightQuest Treatment Centers
Located in Nashville and San Diego, BrightQuest specializes in complex psychiatric conditions, providing compassionate care to a vastly underserved population. With our unique therapeutic community model, BrightQuest is the long-term residential solution you’ve been looking for to provide your loved one with the tools necessary to live a healthier and more independent life.
Bridges to Recovery
Our Bridges to Recovery locations in Los Angeles and San Diego are designed for men and women struggling with mental health disorders who are seeking a safe alternative to hospitalization for their care. Many clients choose residential care at Bridges to Recovery because, despite their best efforts and dedication to treatment, they still are not living a stable and satisfying life. Our clinical expertise and nurturing home-like residences provide clients a safe and supportive environment to recover and heal. The quality and comprehensiveness of our integrated, intensive treatment program allow for rapid relief from suffering and tremendous growth, all in a few short weeks.