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Contact: Connie Hughes
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Wolters Kluwer Health

'Social environmental factors' affect rehospitalization risk in home healthcare patients

Findings may inform policies to improve home care while reducing hospital admission, reports advances in nursing science

Philadelphia, Pa. (November 12, 2012) – For elderly patients receiving home healthcare after a hospital stay, "social environmental factors"—particularly care provided by a family member or other informal caregiver—have a significant impact on the risk of repeated hospital admissions, reports a study in the October-December issue of Advances in Nursing Science. The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part ofWolters Kluwer Health.

"Understanding how social environmental factors contribute to home healthcare patients being rehospitalized would be assist in improving care for patients and in helping agencies deliver more cost-effective care while at the same time managing Medicare spending," according to the report by Hong Tao, RN, PhD, of University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and colleagues.

Social Environmental Factors Affect Functional Abilities…

The study looked at factors affecting the risk of repeated hospital admissions among 1,268 elderly patients receiving home healthcare. Using data from routine, Medicare-required assessments, the researchers focused on the importance of social environmental factors: such as whether the patient lived alone or with others, whether he or she had a primary informal caregiver, and the type and frequency of informal care provided.

Overall, nearly 21 percent of patients in the study were rehospitalized, most within the first 20 days of being discharged from the hospital to home healthcare. Rehospitalizations—defined as readmission to the hospital within 60 days after being released from the hospital to home care—are an important indicator of the quality of care.

The study found some significant associations between social environmental factors, and suggested some pathways by which these effects occur. Patients' functional ability—their ability to take care of themselves—was influenced by their living arrangements and by the type and frequency of informal care they received.

The greater the difference between the patients' clinical condition and functional status, the greater the risk of rehospitalization. Social environmental factors contributed to the risk of repeated hospital admission by altering the balance between the patient's need for and ability to provide self-care.

…With 'Self-Care Deficit' Leading to Repeat Hospitalizations

Changes in clinical condition placed increased demands on the patient's ability to care for himself or herself, while at the same time making it more difficult to provide self-care. Consistent with a central nursing theory, the resulting "self-care deficit" was linked to an increased risk of rehospitalization.

The amount of care and assistance received from informal caregivers had an important impact on self-care ability and rehospitalization risk. Other patient characteristics linked to self-care deficit included obesity and cognitive (intellectual) ability. Patients living alone were less likely to be rehospitalized—perhaps because those choosing to live alone were better able to functional independently and care for themselves.

Few previous studies have looked at how social environmental factors in general, and informal caregivers in particular, affect patient outcomes. Rehospitalization is considered a "major adverse event" in home care. "Rehospitalizations are costly and in many cases preventable," Dr Tao and colleagues explain. One recent study found that 20 percent of hospitalized Medicare beneficiaries are readmitted within 30 days, with costs accounting for one-sixth of the total Medicare budget.

Dr Tao and colleagues believe their study has implications for strategies to reduce unnecessary rehospitalizations and improve the quality of home healthcare. "[Our] findings may help home healthcare nurses to recognize those patients who are in need of certain services that may reduce hospitalization, such as those that lack the support of the patient's family or assistance from paid informal caregivers," they write. Patients with good social environmental support are "more likely to have a higher functional ability and thus remain in their homes, the first choice of most patients."

The study also reaffirms the important role of informal caregivers in maintaining home healthcare patients. The authors add, "Informal caregivers are part of the solution in preventing unnecessary hospitalizations and more attention needs to be given to how these caregivers are supported in their roles."

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About Advances in Nursing Science

Consistently ranked as one of the most-read and most assigned journals by faculties of doctoral programs in nursing, Advances in Nursing Science (ANS) is the most stimulating publication in nursing science and education today. ANS is intellectually challenging, yet readable; innovative, yet scientifically sound; reliable research without the tedious, traditional hard science approach found in so many other journals. Each issue features a single timely research topic with exciting implications for patient care. Articles in ANS are peer-reviewed and chosen for their pioneering approaches and perspectives, which set the direction for nursing practice today.

About Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
Lippincott Williams & Wilkins (LWW) is a leading international publisher of trusted content delivered in innovative ways to practitioners, professionals and students to learn new skills, stay current on their practice, and make important decisions to improve patient care and clinical outcomes. LWW is part of Wolters Kluwer Health, a leading global provider of information, business intelligence and point-of-care solutions for the healthcare industry. Wolters Kluwer Health is part of Wolters Kluwer, a market-leading global information services company with 2011 annual revenues of €3.4 billion ($4.7 billion).



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