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New Study Questions Link Between Readmissions and Outcomes

A new study suggests that hospitals with higher Medicare readmissions rates do not necessarily produce better results for their patients.

The study, “Relationship Between Hospital Readmissions and Mortality Rates for Patients Hospitalized With Acute Myocardial Infarction, Heart Failure, or Pneumonia,” published in this month’s Journal of the American Medical Association, contradicts past research that supported the assertion of some in the medical community that hospitals that are more aggressive about readmitting patients have better long-term results in patient care.

The new study found no significant link between readmissions and mortality rates.  Some who have examined the new study, however, reject that conclusion.The study is published at a time when Medicare is being far more aggressive about penalizing hospitals financially for readmitting patients who have recently been discharged from the hospital.

The National Association of Urban Hospitals (NAUH) has long argued against the Medicare penalties for readmissions, maintaining that the patients urban safety-net hospitals serve are typically sicker and more difficult to treat than the average hospital patient.  Such patients also generally have a more difficult time gaining access to the family, community, and medical support services they need to avoid readmission to the hospital.  NAUH’s argument against Medicare’s readmissions reduction program can be found here, in the association’s June 25, 2012 letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services titled “Proposed Changes in Medicare Inpatient Payment Policies.”

Read more about the study and reaction to it in this Kaiser Health News article.  Find the study itself herejama1, on the web site of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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