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Avoidable hospital readmissions threaten healthcare quality. Unlike most businesses, hospitals don’t like to see customers return for more service.  Medicare fines hospitals when readmission rates exceed specified levels, to make sure that hospitals have good discharge procedures and follow-up. Lack of effective discharge procedures and patient follow-up can result in patient confusion, forgetting, or noncompliance for many reasons, including not being able to afford post-discharge medication. In 2013, approximately 2 million patients were readmitted for the same problem that led to the original hospital stay, costing Medicare $26 billion. According to U.S. health officials, $17 billion of the readmission costs came from potentially avoidable readmissions.

Raleigh-based MobileSmith is an enterprise-level mobile app development company that builds applications for hospitals. In a recently published white paper, “How Mobile Apps Can Reduce Preventable Readmissions,” MobileSmith outlined mobile strategies, use cases, and best practices for preventing unnecessary readmissions. In a survey of patients 65 years of age and older, only 60% of discharged patients could describe their diagnosis and only 44% remembered the details of their discharge appointment. By 2014, according to MobileSmith, 72% of the U.S. population owned smartphones and more than 33% of physicians had recommended mobile health apps to patients. Three types of mobile apps that show promise with discharged patients include programs for post-discharge, medication adherence, and home visits. The key to all three apps is empowering the patient and their caregivers with information and two-way communication.

MobileSmith noted the increased availability of remote biometric sensors, but noted several challenging use factors with sensors, especially with older patients. The cost of remote sensing devices, patient willingness to wear sensors, and compliance among those who do agree to wear sensors are all obstacles. Most patients already own smartphones, however, which allows two-way communications and information sharing using technology already at hand.