Hospital readmission rates heading in the right direction

A new analysis from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services shows progress on reducing hospital readmission rates, AHA News Now reported.

CMS found all-cause, 30-day readmissions for Medicare patients dropped to 18.4 percent in 2012 from 19 percent during the previous five years. That means hospitals saw about 70,000 fewer readmissions during last year, according to the analysis.

The number index admissions and readmissions have been on a slow decent since 2007, with per-beneficiary index admissions and readmissions down 10 percent to 14 percent in 2012 than in 2007. Readmissions falling slightly faster than corresponding index admissions partly explains the lower readmission rate, according to the analysis.

CMS did not adjust the data for age or health status and included potentially planned or unavailable readmissions.

Moreover, the analysis didn't explore what caused the drop in hospital readmission rates, but suggested payment reforms and efforts to prevent avoidable readmissions may be affecting rates in a measurable way. CMS also noted a flood of new, younger Medicare beneficiaries is not responsible for the reduction.

"[T]he reasons behind the reduction, as well as the implications for clinicians and policy makers, are not yet clear and merit further monitoring and analysis," the analysis states.

The new analysis builds on a March testimony from Jonathan Blum, director of the Center for Medicare and CMS acting deputy director, that credited payment and delivery reforms for the falling readmission rates, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

Blum noted the threat of reduced Medicare reimbursements for hospitals with high rates of readmissions under the Affordable Care Act already has produced results, given the rate of 30-day readmissions dropped to 17.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012.

To learn more:
- here's the AHA News Now brief
- check out the CMS report (.pdf)