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Project RED Takes Aim at the Blues

New Study Aims to Reduce Hospital Readmission Rates among Patients with Depression

With myriad instructions regarding appointments, prescriptions, nutrition and home care, hospital discharge can be difficult for any patient, but for a patient with depression it can be overwhelming. Untreated depression can seriously hinder patients’ ability to care for themselves and can often lead to return visits to the hospital. Now, thanks to grants from the Agency for Health Research and Quality and The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, Project RED, Boston Medical Center's cutting-edge program to reduce hospital readmissions, will aim to further lower rehospitalizations by targeting patients with depression.

Studies show that patients with depression are three times more likely to return to the hospital within 90 days of discharge.

“Depression is a powerful predictor of readmission,” said Brian Jack, MD, Professor and Vice Chair for Academic Affairs in the Department of Family Medicine at Boston Medical Center and Project RED founder. “Results of a recent study showed that patients who screened positive for depression were three times more likely to return to the hospital within 90 days of discharge than patients who screened negative.”

Currently Project RED utilizes patient education, appointment planning and follow up and coordination of post-discharge services to help reduce hospital readmission rates. The program has proven to reduce rehospitalizations and emergency room visits after 30 days of discharge by as much as 30 percent, improving patient outcomes and reducing hospital costs. As part of a new three-year study, Dr. Jack and his team will specifically tailor the Project RED methodology for patients with depression by integrating screening, referral and treatment for the disease into its discharge protocol.

“By layering mental health screening and treatment into our protocol, we are seeking to reduce readmissions by 25 percent in our target population,” explained Dr. Jack.

Depressive symptoms will be addressed in a variety of ways including patient education on depression, post-discharge appointments for a mental health assessment and continued follow up reinforcement of the mental health component of the discharge plan. If the results of the study prove successful it could improve the care provided to patients with depression and save health care costs. 

Project RED was awarded the 2007 “Patient Care for Excellence in Patient Education Innovation” by the Agency for Health Research and Quality and has become a national model of care. Currently Project Red is implemented by more than 400 hospitals nationwide.

Project Red-Plus is funded in part by a grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation. Created in 2001, the mission of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation is to expand access to health care in Massachusetts through grantmaking and policy initiatives.

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