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Skilled nursing communities rely on VoiceFriend to reduce hospital readmissions for discharged patients

A $20 billion annual cost and growing

A few years ago, the Journal of the American Medical Association published the results of a groundbreaking study of rehabilitation facilities conducted by the University of Texas Division of Rehabilitation Sciences. The researchers examined the readmission rates for rehab patients from the six most common impairment groups.

The study found that the 30-day readmission rates among these discharged patients averaged close to 12%―and as high as 18.8%―for the six impairment groups.1

The sobering fact is: the high cost of readmission of hospitalized older adults has become a $20 billion annual expense for Medicare. Skilled nursing communities and other rehab centers have a financial incentive to reduce readmissions by ensuring that discharged patients are consistently in compliance with their care plans.

Serious reasons to cut readmission rates

As of October of 2018, both incentives and penalties that were mandated by the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 have gone into effect. Skilled nursing communities who reduce readmissions by ensuring care plan compliance of discharged patients can now see up to a 1.6% bonus in their Medicare Part A payments.  But those that do not improve their readmission rates can see up to a 2% cut in their Medicare Part A payments.2

If you think that only a small percentage of skilled nursing communities will likely see a penalty, think again. Recent data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) show that vast majority (73%) of skilled nursing communities had poor 30-day readmission rates back to hospitals – and will thus receive a penalty on their Medicare payments for the 2019 fiscal year.
Only 27% will receive a bonus.2

The challenges of manual wellness and care plan compliance checks

Today, communities are still primarily using manual processes for following up with and tracking discharged patients – processes which are inefficient and rarely effective. These manual processes are challenged by a number of issues:

  • They take a lot of time, requiring staff to make phone calls to discharged patients in the hope of reaching them at the right time.
  • They rely on an overburdened and/or overworked staff—making it easy to forget the wellness and care plan check follow-up calls or leave them incomplete.
  • The effort keeps staff from more pressing high-priority needs.
  • Manual check processes are prone to human error and inaccuracies in reporting.
  • They rely on the discharged patients’ answering their phones—something people are less apt to do these days—making the process ineffective.

“Because we know there’s such a challenge with rehospitalization for residents who have been discharged from our communities, we are looking to use VoiceFriend to help us reach out to residents post-discharge to be able to check in on them -- and to make us more efficient and resourceful so we can better mitigate readmissions and meet all of our goals.”

Meera Riner, COO, Nexion Health

Using VoiceFriend to reduce readmissions

As a leading developer of innovative voice communications solutions for skilled nursing and rehabilitation communities, we recognized that voice technology could help greatly improve compliance with discharged patient care plans. In 2019, we released our Wellness and Safety Check Module, which is part of our VoiceFriend automated communications and wellness solution. Our Wellness and Safety Check Module leverages simple landlines, cell phones or even Amazon Alexa enabled devices to allow discharged patients to perform their wellness, care plan and safety checks via three easy options:

  1. Receive an inbound telephone call and press a number on the telephone keypad to confirm they are okay
  2. Call the community’s designated phone number by a specific required date/time
  3. heck in via their voice-activated Amazon Alexa-enabled device (such as an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot) by simply saying “Alexa, tell VoiceFriend I’m okay.”  

The importance of customized follow-up questions

When it came to discharged patients of skilled nursing communities and rehab centers, additional capabilities were needed to make the solution more effective. It wasn’t enough for skilled nursing communities or rehab centers to confirm that their discharged patients were okay. They needed to collect additional details from their discharged patients to ensure they were compliant with their care plans and free of complications that could put them back into the hospital.

To solve this challenge, VoiceFriend makes it easy for skilled nursing or rehab centers to ask important follow-up questions of a discharged patient, such as:

  • “How are you feeling?”
  • “Are you following your care plan?”
  • “Do you have questions about your care plan or medicines?”
  • “Do you need assistance?”
  • “Do you need supplies?”
  • “Would you like someone to call you to discuss any other questions or issues?”

The VoiceFriend solution then automatically notifies the nursing/rehab center staff which discharged patients have or have not updated their wellness status on time, along with the patients’ responses to the custom follow-up questions. This greatly reduces the number of manual wellness checks and human error - and increases the touchpoints providers can make with their discharged patients.

The bottom-line results

Giving discharged patients easy, simple options to report their relative health status and needs results in better outcomes and CMS financial bonuses instead of costly penalties.  In addition to the financial incentives, the benefits are virtually immediate:

  • Improved discharged patient compliance to care plans
  • Increased accuracy and timeliness of discharged patient wellness status
  • Reduced labor time and costs spent on manual checks
  • Improved staff focus, allowing attention on high-priority needs and tasks
  • Reduced opportunity for human error and its serious potential consequences

"The ability to leverage VoiceFriend’s innovative voice technology to improve the safety and wellness of our seniors is truly an exciting advancement…. It gives seniors and their loved ones peace of mind as it enables our staff to better identify and assist seniors in need.”

Rhonda Glyman, Executive Director, Hebrew Senior Live - A Harvard Medical School Affiliate

The development of VoiceFriend’s Wellness and Safety Check Module is part of VoiceFriend’s ongoing commitment to deploy innovative voice technology to help senior care providers communicate more effectively with current and discharged patients, families and staff while boosting wellness and quality of care.

To learn more or schedule a demo, contact us today at, 781.996.3123  or visit


1 – Thirty-Day Hospital Readmission following Discharge from Post-acute Rehabilitation in Fee-for-Service Medicare Patients by Kenneth J. Ottenbacher, Ph.D., et al. – Published online by the U.S. National Library of Medicine/National Institute of Health, Feb. 12, 2015

2 – Most skilled-nursing facilities penalized by CMS for readmission rates, by Maria Castellucci. Published online by Modern Healthcare, Nov. 28, 2018



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