Reduced Hospital Readmissions and Mortality Rates: How Are They Linked?

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Reductions in readmissions among these patients did not lead to higher mortality rates, according to researchers.
Reductions in readmissions among these patients did not lead to higher mortality rates, according to researchers.

HealthDay News — Reducing hospital readmission rates for acute myocardial infarction, heart failure, and pneumonia didn't increase mortality rates, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, US hospitals face significant financial penalties if they have too many readmissions. Since enactment of the health care law, readmission rates within 30 days after patient discharge have been significantly reduced. To find out how that might affect mortality rates, researchers analyzed data on Medicare patients hospitalized for acute myocardial infarction, heart failure, or pneumonia between 2008 and 2014.

Reductions in readmissions among these patients did not lead to higher mortality rates, and may even have lowered death rates, according to the researchers. One reason might be that hospitals have taken steps to improve in-hospital and after-hospital care. Such measures include better preparing patients and families for discharge, more timely follow-up, and improved communication with outpatient health care providers, the investigators said.

"Our study validates that the national focus on readmissions improved outcomes without causing unintended harm," senior author Harlan Krumholz, MD, a professor of cardiology at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., said in a university news release. "Thousands and thousands of readmissions are being avoided every year without any evidence of people being harmed. That is a victory of improving the quality of care."

References

  1. Dharmarajan L, Wang Y, Lin Z, et al. Association of changing hospital readmission rates with mortality rates after hospital discharge. JAMA. 2017;318(3):270-278. 
  2. Joynt Maddox KE. Readmissions have declined, and mortality has not increased. The importance of evaluating unintended consequences. JAMA. 2017;318(3):243-244.

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