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Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital proves email as care coordination tool to reduce readmissions, improve satisfaction

In a pilot program at the San Francisco Health Network affiliates, coordinating care with basic email lowered readmission rates by 58 percent.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. Credit: UCSFZuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. Credit: UCSF

It might even seem overly simple, but using an email approach to care coordination between physicians can not only improve outcomes and provider satisfaction, but also have a fairly profound impact on readmissions, according to a study published in the American Journal of Accountable Care.

Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and the University of California San Francisco Family Medicine Inpatient Service, both part of the San Francisco Health Network, piloted a secure e-mail system in a test that involved 1,300 patients and began to bear fruit during its second year.

[Also: Report claims federal readmission reduction program is boosting mortality rates]

Eighty-six percent of outpatient primary care doctors reported receiving discharge details typically within a day or two, while 82 percent said the email system improved communication with inpatient physicians. Another sizeable majority, 72 percent, said scheduling follow-ups was easier. And a whopping 93 percent recommended that all hospital services adopt a similar care transition system.

Since readmissions can be lowered by 58 percent if a patient follows up with PCP after discharge, physicians having this information can reduce cost for the health system and improve patient quality. The federal government currently penalizes hospitals financially if they fail to meet certain readmissions-related standards.

[Also: Hospital Elder Life Program shown to lower 30-day readmission rates]

As an added bonus, the study contends the email solution is also cost-effective due to the lack of training or implementation of complicated technology needed. What it does, essentially, is provide an easy-to-electronic record that can be monitored by providers.

The benefit to patients, meanwhile, is an increased ability to understand the ins and outs of post-discharge care, as well as better overall patient satisfaction and a more streamlined process.

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com

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