Noteworthy News

Readmissions Unrelated to Original Problem?

A new study has found that most hospital readmissions among Medicare patients are unrelated to the medical problem that necessitated their original admission.

In an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers analyzed more than 650,000 readmissions of Medicare fee-for-service patients originally admitted to the hospital for heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, and pneumonia from 2007 to 2009 and found that in the vast majority of cases, the readmissions were necessary for reasons other than the cause of the original admission.

The study controlled for patients’ age, gender, and race and found no meaningful variations based on those factors.  It did not examine readmission rates based on patients’ socio-economic status.

The findings may be important in light of the recent implementation of Medicare’s hospital readmissions reduction program, which imposes financial penalties on hospitals found to have too many Medicare readmissions.  The National Association of Urban Hospitals (NAUH) has conveyed its opposition to this program to federal officials, noting that the patients typically served by private, non-profit urban safety-net hospitals frequently have medical problems that go well beyond their primary diagnosis and often require additional hospital care to treat.  This new study appears to support that argument – and suggests that the same case might be made for other Medicare patients as well.

Read the report “Diagnoses and Timing of 30-Day Readmissions After Hospitalization for Heart Failure, Acute Myocardial Infarction, or Pneumonia” herejama1, in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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