Pain driving many back into hospital, CMS study shows

Sandra Simmons, Ph.D.
Sandra Simmons, Ph.D.

About 23% of skilled nursing patients return to the hospital within 30 days of discharge due to moderate or severe pain, a recent study from the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services shows.

As a result, researchers are looking at ways to improve care transition, said Sandra Simmons, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University. 

In order to figure out what needs improvement, Simmons and others from Vanderbilt conducted standardized interviews with 188 Medicare beneficiaries who were discharged to a skilled nursing facility. They asked patients their pain levels before and after hospital admittance, and whether they were satisfied with their care management. 

“We were surprised about how many people were leaving the hospital and still reporting moderate to severe pain,” Simmons told McKnight's. “But, they were satisfied with how it was being managed due to low expectations for care.” 

Patients who have low expectations of care quality and leave the hospital experiencing pain will not be properly treated in a SNF because they are not likely to complain about it, she added. But if pain is not well-managed, a patient's functional status and quality of life will suffer. 

“Patients shouldn't assume they have to live with pain,” Simmons advised. “They should feel comfortable expressing concerns and expectations.”