Study links activity levels post-discharge to rehospitalization rates

March 18, 2013
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A new study has found a link between the activity levels of elderly people who have just been released from the hospital and the risk that they will require readmission within 30 days.

The investigation draws on data collected from 111 patients aged 65 and older, each of whom was fitted with a step activity monitor during his or her hospital stay. Worn on the patient’s ankle, the pager-sized device counted every step the person took during hospitalization and for a week after discharge.

“We’re using activity here as a biomarker, similar to the way you might use blood pressure,” said professor Steve R. Fisher, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and assistant lead author of a paper in Journals of Gerontology Series A, in a press release. “While we can’t say whether activity is a cause or effect in these cases, we can use it as a marker to tell us whether a person is at high risk and we need to intervene.” Patients in the study who were rehospitalized also walked markedly less during their hospital stay.

Fisher envisions hospitals using inexpensive electronic pedometers to monitor elderly patient activity in the hospital and for a brief period after discharge.

“If you suffer congestive heart failure [CHF], a nurse will call you during the first week home to ask how whether you’ve gained any weight, because an increase in water retention can be a sign that CHF is exacerbating,” Fisher said. “This is the same kind of principle: we want to know how much people are moving around, because we want to know whether they’re going downhill. The key is to avoid rehospitalization that often starts a cascade of events that leads to debility.” 

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