Follow-up Calls After Hospital Stays Improve Patient Experience
Post-discharge Call Center Improves Follow-up Patient Care
For many patients, it’s unsettling to return home after a stay in the hospital. At the hospital, teams of trained nurses and staff provide around-the-clock care and monitoring—but at home, patients must care for themselves. It’s not uncommon to feel anxious or unprepared for the transition.
To address concerns and improve the patient experience, Baptist Memorial Health Care recently created a patient discharge call center.
“We consider our centralized call center to be a patient safety initiative,” said Suzanne Harvey, system director for care coordination and the post-discharge call center. “We want to show empathy for our patients—empathy and safety are our main goals when we call.”
Eliminating Fears With a Phone Call
Years of research and assessments identified opportunities to meet patients’ needs at home—and avoid potential readmission to the hospital. Baptist’s nurses at the discharge call center work to ensure patients feel comfortable, confident and safe at home after a hospital stay.
“We started with one call nurse on one unit at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis,” said Harvey. “Our first nurse, LaToya Harris, RN, was making 30 to 40 calls per day. We’ve gradually increased to the entire hospital in Memphis and began making discharge calls for Baptist DeSoto patients as of April 1.”
Post-discharge phone calls provide many benefits, including a reduction in medication errors. The names of prescription medicines can be long and complex with multiple brand names for the same product. According to Harvey, follow-up calls can eliminate uncertainty around prescriptions.
“Even though Baptist’s nurses explain patients’ medications to them before they leave the hospital, they may be anxious or distracted,” said Harvey. “They’re thinking about who is going to take them home, who is going to stay with them and if they have food at home. They may retain just a small percentage of information the nurses give them.”
Once they return home, patients may not recognize the label on their new medication bottle and begin to worry.
“It’s the same medication but with a different name,” said Harvey. “Call center nurses reach out, ask questions and stop patients from taking the same medication twice. We want you to feel satisfied and confident in your ability to care for yourself.”
Providing Life-saving Resources to Patients
Follow-up calls not only give Baptist’s nurses an opportunity to identify trends for improvement but also provide a sense of empathy for patients’ well-being.
“When patients answer the call, we ask if they know how to care for themselves now that they are home,” said Harvey. “We ask if they have everything they need for recovery, including people to help care for them, follow-up prescriptions and transportation to their follow-up appointment.”
Post-discharge calls can dramatically affect the lives of Baptist’s patients. This is especially true for individuals who have fixed or low incomes.
“One of our patients went home and found out he could not afford his medications,” said Harvey. “The call center nurse spoke to his mother, who is his caretaker, and discovered the medication was only $1.50. We were able to call the pharmacy and ask them to waive the co-pay for this patient. We also asked them to mail it to him, because it was a hardship for the patient to travel.”
Creating Value Across the Mid-South
An additional discharge patient call center is planned for Baptist DeSoto in May 2019. The expansion will be launched in phases with a goal of six call nurses making post-discharge calls for Baptist Memphis, Baptist DeSoto, Baptist North Mississippi and NEA Baptist. Discharge call centers for Baptist’s regional hospitals will launch in phases through 2020.
“We want you to know we care about you and your recovery,” said Harvey. “We want you to have what is necessary for you to take care of yourself at home. And if you don’t have it, we want to help you get it.”