Imagine suddenly going through the admissions process at your local hospital for a condition that came on without warning. Now imagine all the noise and commotion you may experience going through the emergency room evaluation process, and subsequent transfer to another wing, a stay for three days while doctors poke and prod to see what’s wrong with you, an endless line of nurses to check your vitals and give you unknown medications, until finally after what seems like an eternity, you’re discharged. Pretty unsettling right?
Now imagine doing that at the age of 65 or older. Chances are you have already incurred some degree of hearing loss at this age. Imagine trying to focus on each word the doctors are saying to you about your diagnosis, let alone just trying to hear what she is saying. You may have one or more family members with you, but there’s a chance you may not. You may have a friend or loved one to drive you home, but did they hear everything the doctor said too?
According to a recent study conducted by NYU researchers, roughly a third of all patients who hospitals readmit within one month of discharge are seniors that are living with some form of hearing loss. The noisy and chaotic situation can lend itself to degraded understanding and ability to remember directions for after hospital care that’s prescribed. This environment can also make hearing discharge care instructions more difficult than it would be in any other situation, causing an increased probability that patient will return to be readmitted to the hospital for the same condition.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, examined Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) to identify patients who have had trouble communicating with medical care providers during hospitalization. They found that these individuals had a significantly higher risk of going back to the hospital for the same conditions because of the lack of effective communication with hospital staff due to hearing loss.
While there have been no additional studies yet to confirm the data, implications for improvements in hospital environments exist. Hospital staff can take positive steps to help mitigate noise and better serve patients who have hearing loss, whether their hearing loss is known or unknown.
The result of this study leads to a suggestion that if hospitals began implementing improvements to supporting patients in the areas of communication with different approaches or through the use of low-cost technology, the incidences of hospital readmission among this sector of the population will begin to decline, thereby saving hospitals, insurance companies, and ultimately tax-payers significant healthcare costs.
One-third of all healthcare costs originate from hospital admissions. 35 million hospitalizations occur every year in the U.S. and a good portion of those return for readmission within a month. Preventing unneeded readmission due to failure to hear post hospital care directions can cut the portion of hospital readmissions significantly. The cost of a few minor changes within hospitals can save millions of dollars.