From the Journals

Phone outreach intervention feasible to reduce SLE readmissions



A nurse-led intervention aimed at reducing hospital readmission rates for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is feasible but the jury is out as to whether it can achieve its primary goal, a study has found.

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A paper published in Arthritis Care & Research presents the outcomes of a retrospective study using electronic health records that looked at the effect of a quality improvement initiative at the University of Colorado Hospital on readmission rates in two cohorts of 48 and 56 individuals with SLE.

Emily Bowers, MD, of the department of rheumatology at the University of Colorado at Denver, Aurora, and coauthors wrote that hospital readmission rates for SLE are as high as 36% for 30-day readmission. They are significantly higher than for other common chronic diseases such as heart failure, COPD, and diabetes. Readmission for SLE is associated with young age, ethnic or racial diversity, public health insurance, multiorgan involvement, and other comorbidities.

The intervention involved first alerting clinic nurses via the patient’s electronic medical record when the patient was discharged from hospital. The nurses would then call the patient within 48 hours to answer any questions and review their discharge information, and then consult with a rheumatologist on on-call if needed. This call was documented in the patient’s medical record.

In the preintervention cohort, there were 59 hospitalizations among 48 patients, 29% of which were followed by readmission within 30 days; 53% of these readmissions were lupus related. In the cohort that followed introduction of the intervention, there were 73 hospitalizations among 56 individuals, and 19% were followed by readmission within 30 days, 29% of which were lupus related.

After accounting for gender, age, race, and insurance type, the researchers calculated that there was an 89% higher odds of readmission in the nonintervention group than in the intervention group, but the difference was not statistically significant.

The authors noted that although the results were not statistically significant, the low cost of the intervention – requiring around 30 minutes of nursing time – meant even small reductions in the number of emergency department or hospital admissions would make it a cost-effective approach.

“Telephone outreach is an excellent method of providing additional support to patients, assessing clinical needs, reinforcing education about SLE, medications, and common complications such as drug side effects and infections, and allows for patients to ask pertinent questions to RN providers with expertise in the management of lupus,” the authors wrote.

The nurses also recorded qualitative information about the calls, which picked up some patient issues that could be addressed. For example, a patient was discharged with the wrong amount of prednisone, which the nurse was able to fix by adjusting the order and sending it to the pharmacy. Two other patients were confused by their medication instructions and were taking the medication incorrectly; the nurse arranged for the patients to come in for educational session. In another case, the nurse was able to arrange an infusion for the patient, and for one patient with concerns about infection, the nurse was able to advise that person on symptoms and how to seek care.

“To increase implementation of the intervention, we have discussed creating a discharge order set, which would include an automatic EMR message to the nurses,” the authors wrote. “Future studies should explore alternative ways of communicating with our patients after discharge, such as the use of text messaging, messaging through the patient portal in the EMR, or telehealth.”

The authors had no financial disclosures, and there was no outside financial support for the study.

SOURCE: Bowers E et al. Arthritis Care Res. 2020 Aug 29. doi: 10.1002/acr.24435.

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