James M. Berklan

For me, one of the joys of entering a library is the anticipation of finding a new adventure. What thrilling crime or historical novel might a person grab? Some are found by chance, some from friends’ tips.

But the best are often plucked from the just-returned cart. You know, the place where books that other people have checked out go for re-shelving. These are, almost without fail, a treasure trove of interesting titles. I figure someone has done some research and already found the cream of the crop.

It’s the same feeling I get when I read Top 10-type lists. Unless you’ve been napping since Thanksgiving, surely you too have been inundated with lists about the top things to look out for — or even NOT to look out for — in 2018.

We’ve also received the “Best of 2017” type lists, and that’s what caught my eye this week. The excellent national journal Health Affairs listed its most popular articles of last year. These are stories that could interest consumers, researchers, regulators, and many others, not just providers.

Direct-to-consumer telehealth, doctors’ work time priorities, and the effect of low-cost services, for example, were the three most popular on the 2017 list. Others traverse a wide swath of health-related topics.

It was No. 10, however, that caught my eye most: “Initiative To Reduce Avoidable Hospitalizations Among Nursing Facility Residents Shows Promising Results.” And there you have it. Avoiding (re)hospitalizations.

The readers making this so popular were not just long-term care stakeholders driving up clicks. It’s thousands of interested people from all walks of life indicating that a nursing home-related issue was one of the most interesting topics of 2017. It was hospitals, doctors, specialists and others needing to know how to find better care partners. It’s also a compass indicating what one of the very hottest topics of 2018 should still be.

Hospitals and, starting more recently, nursing homes can be penalized large sums of money if their rehospitalization rates are too high. This ship has not only sailed, it’s returned to the dock and taking on more well-informed passengers all the time.

So, sure, look into the crystal balls out there to speculate about the rest of 2018. But remember, too, that examining the past is also a good way to know the road ahead.

In this case, (re)hospitalizations is it. Knowledge about clinical and business practices that can keep your residents out of the hospital will make you a valued partner and, more likely to be a full-house operator.

What a thrilling story that would be.

Follow Editor James M. Berklan @JimBerklan.