Hospitals are looking to cut costs wherever possible, but what if hiring more social workers was key to decreasing cost? Findings from a study on hospital re-admissions is showing just how significant that difference can be. Laura Bronstein and Shawn Berkowitz took on a controlled study to see how many patients would not have to be re-admitted into a hospital in that first 30 days post discharge. The national average has 19% of Medicare patients end up back in the hospital during this time, something that costs almost $18 million a year. That’s a lot of hospital beds.
Bronstein & Berkowitz’s study had their group flag at risk patients to identify needs and then provide follow up calls and schedule a home visit if necessary. While the control group had 8 out of their 44 patients return (about 18%), those with social work intervention had no patients readmitted during those 30 days.
Re-admission is a despised term in healthcare. Many readmissions are preventable, and with an ever growing aging population, and large population of young, uninsured who must utilize ERs instead of primary care, hospitals must regain control or risk spending millions unnecessarily. After analysis of the findings, Bronstein reported that “even if the hospital hired a dozen social workers they would still make great savings in the readmissions that they potentially averted.” In an age where social worker jobs are cut because of budgetary issues and misunderstanding of their role, further research could demonstrate the vital need for social workers.
Just goes to show, social workers make the adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
By: Courtney Kidd, LMSW
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