More family physicians could mean lower readmissions

Adding family physicians could lower 30-day readmission rates related to pneumonia, heart attack and heart failure, say Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center researchers in a new report in the current American Family Physician.

Using data from the Hospital Compare database, the researchers calculated that by adding at least one family physician per 1,000 population, readmission rates could be reduced for pneumonia by 7 percent, heart attacks by 5 percent, and heart failure by 8 percent. These are these same conditions used by the Department of Health and Humans Services to evaluate readmissions.

Currently, 33 family physicians are available per 100,000 population. Increasing that number to 46 family practitioners could reduce readmission costs by $81 million per year for those three condition, according to the research prepared for the Robert Graham Center, a primary care think tank.

If the number of family physicians increased by 100 per 100,000 population, costs would decline by $579 million per year--or 83 percent of the $710 million target established by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the researchers said.

The idea is that more primary care doctors would be available to guide patients through the healthcare system and provide timely follow-up care, said senior author Brian Jack, MD, an associate professor and vice chair for academic affairs in the Department of Family Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine/Boston Medical Center.

"Of course family physicians save money in a lot of other ways because they work in the community," Jack told the Boston Globe.

Increased numbers of physicians in other major specialties--including general internal medicine--is associated with increased risk of readmission, the study noted.

For more details:
- see the American Family Physician article
- read the Boston Globe article