Need For Improvement in Hospital Care For Vision-Impaired Patients

Recent research spotlights a need to address certain risks and incapacities with which people with visual impairment are faced during hospital stays. Vision-impaired hospital patients have worse clinical outcomes, more readmissions, longer lengths of stay, and higher costs of care than non-vision-impaired patients, according to the authors.

The article, published April 4, 2019 in JAMA Ophthalmology, revealed a need for improvements in:

  • Accommodation of simple tasks such as identifying food choices, locating nursing call buttons, or identifying support staff.
  • Provision of accessible consent forms, preadmission protocols, and post-discharge instructions.
  • Help with following hospital routines.
  • Assistance with safely moving about the hospital environment.

The research, based upon data collected from more than 12,000 patients, included several notable findings:

  • Compared to hospital patients with no vision impairment, Medicare beneficiaries with severe vision loss had longer mean lengths of stay, 6.48 days vs. 5.26 days.
  • Medicare beneficiaries with severe vision loss had a 23.1% readmission rate, which was 4.4% higher than patients with no vision impairment.
  • Medicare beneficiaries with severe vision loss had 12% higher costs of care compared to patients with no vision impairment.
  • For older patients with vision impairment, the total excess cost of hospital care was estimated at more than $580 million.

The authors stressed the importance of budgeting for improvements in hospital environments and operations for vision-impaired patients, writing that ”Although some costs may be incurred to make facilities and hospital personnel better equipped to care for these patients, the potential savings and improvement in quality of care may make this undertaking a good investment”.

SOURCE: Association of Vision Loss With Hospital Use and Costs Among Older Adults. Alan R. Morse, JD, PhD, et al  (JAMA Ophthalmol. Published online April 4, 2019. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2019.0446