A new law to help keep caregivers better informed about important medical information could help reduce hospital readmissions. Senate Bill 1536, by Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, and Rep. Harold Wright, R-Weatherford, which was approved by the governor, allows patients to designate a caregiver upon formal admission. The hospital must also notify the designated caregiver of the patient’s discharge and consult with the caregiver about aftercare.
“Hospitals are used to dealing with a spouse or family member, but there are many people in Oklahoma that have a friend or neighbor who acts as their caregiver. Making sure caregivers are informed about discharge and aftercare instructions is extremely important,” said Crain, chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. “Keeping caregivers informed about a patient’s medical situation and instructions will make a big difference in helping the patient recuperate without ending up back in the hospital just days or weeks later.”
A reduction in preventable readmissions could save the state millions of dollars each year. According to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, in fiscal year 2013 the agency spent almost $63 million for hospital readmissions with 30 days of discharge for Medicaid patients.
“This important new law will ensure that patients are properly cared for after they are released from a hospital,” Wright said. “It is critical that caregivers are given the appropriate information to ensure optimal post-release care.”
Several organizations supported the measure, including AARP, the American Cancer Society, the Alzheimer’s Association, and other aging advocacy organizations, including Oklahoma’s Silver Haired Legislature.
AARP Oklahoma State President Marjorie Lyons said the caregiver bill had been the association’s top legislative priority this session, and thanked Fallin, Crain and Wright for their support.
“This new law is the first of its kind in the nation. It will help improve post-discharge outcomes by improving coordination with caregivers, whether it’s family or someone else. This will reduce costly hospital readmissions and enable thousands of Oklahomans to continue living independently in their own homes,” Lyons said. “During this process, AARP heard from thousands of family caregivers across Oklahoma who are struggling to care for a loved one. This will help give family caregivers in Oklahoma crucial support.”
Oklahoma’s new caregiver law takes effect November 1, 2014.