Hospitals make little progress on heart failure readmissions

Although hospitals make efforts to prevent heart failure readmissions, few have achieved meaningful reductions in recent years, according to research presented at the Heart Failure Society of America Annual Scientific Meeting and published in the Journal of Cardiac Failure.

Heart failure is one of the targets under the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program. Nearly 1 in 4 patients are readmitted to hospitals within 30 days of discharge due to the condition, according to Kristen E. Bergethon, an M.D. candidate at Duke Clinical Research Institute, who led the research.

In addition, 2014 research revealed that safety-net hospitals and those with largely low-income patient populations are at particular risk for heart failure readmissions; patients from lower-income neighborhoods, researchers found, were nearly 17 percent more likely to be readmitted within six months of discharge. 

Bergethon and her research team analyzed data from 21,264 heart failure patients at 70 U.S. sites from January 2009 to October 2012. Risk-adjusted 30-day heart failure readmission rates improved only slightly over the study period, falling from 20.2 percent to 19.05 percent, according to the study. 

"While there was slight improvement in 30-day readmissions over the past four years, few hospitals have seen large success," Bergethon said in the study announcement. "Our data suggest that structural factors and teaching hospital status may have a bigger impact on readmission rates than previously assumed."

A 2013 study found that six strategies, when implemented together rather than individually, could reduce heart failure readmissions by approximately 2 percent and save more than $100 million. Those strategies included partnerships with local hospitals; giving nurses responsibility for medication reconciliation; arranging for follow-up visits prior to discharge; partnerships with community doctors and physician groups; and assigning staff to follow up on post-discharge test results.

To learn more:
- here's the study abstract
- read the study announcement