Researchers, in a recent study, found that the more a hospital invests in occupational therapy the lower are its readmission rates for three serious health conditions: pneumonia, heart failure, and acute myocardial infarction.
The study, “Higher Hospital Spending on Occupational Therapy Is Associated with Lower Readmission Rates,” was published in the journal Medical Care Research and Review and was conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
According to the researchers, occupational therapy focuses on crucial issues related to hospital readmission rates, like finding out if the patient can be discharged safely into the home environment. Occupational therapists address issues from physical barriers to daily functional capacity and support networks, investigating the underlying reasons a person might not be ready to be discharged and working to overcome them.
“Occupational therapy places a unique and immediate focus on patients’ functional and social needs, which can be important drivers of readmission if left unaddressed,” the researchers said, according to a press release, adding that occupational therapy is “one spending category that affects both the clinical and social determinants of health, [and] investing in occupational therapy has the potential to improve care quality without significantly increasing overall hospital spending.”
The team assessed 19 different spending categories, including occupational therapy, at 2,818 hospitals for the evaluation of pneumonia, 2,791 hospitals for the evaluation of heart failure, and 1,595 hospitals for the evaluation of acute myocardial infarction.
They found that greater spending in occupational therapy was linked to lower readmission rates in the three medical conditions analyzed, including pneumonia. Based on these results, the team highlighted six interventions through which occupational therapists work to lower hospital readmission rates:
- Providing recommendations and training for caregivers.
- Determining if patients can live independently in a safe manner, or if they require additional rehabilitation or nursing care.
- Addressing previous disabilities with assistive devices so patients can safely perform daily life activities, like using the bathroom, bathing, or preparing a meal.
- Performing home safety assessments before discharging a patient, and suggesting modifications.
- Assessing cognition and physical ability, for tasks like opening medication containers, and providing training when necessary.
- Working with physical therapists to increase the intensity of inpatient rehabilitation.
“The findings of this important study highlight just one of the many roles occupational therapy practitioners are playing in improving quality and reducing healthcare costs,” said Frederick P. Somers, chief executive officer of the American Occupational Therapy Association. “Occupational therapy practitioners are proving to be an essential member of any inter-professional team successfully addressing the changing demands of the health care delivery system.”
More than 213,000 occupational therapists work in the U.S., helping people of all ages to live as independent as possible after an illness, injury, or because of a mental disability.