Readmission rates higher with long stays, heart failure

As the industry focuses on curbing readmissions, a new a report reveals that roughly 13.5 percent of hospital stays in Pennsylvania in 2010 were followed by at least one readmission within 30 days, while 5.6 percent were followed by a readmission specifically for a com­plication or infection, according the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4).

The report also found that heart failure patients were responsible for most of the readmissions at 8,846--at a 24.3 percent rate. Mental health disorder patients followed with 6,533 readmissions.

But not all readmissions can be prevented, PHC4 Executive Director Joe Martin said in a statement today, citing follow-up care, patients' willingness or ability to follow post-discharge instructions, patients' access to transportation and insurance coverage as factors that can cause repeat visits. His stance challenges a January study in The Journal of the American Medical Association that found readmissions are indeed preventable.

The PHC4 report also noted that patients were more likely to come back within a month of discharge the longer they stayed in the hospital during the initial visit. In fact, readmission rates more than tripled when length of stay increased from one day (9 percent) to 15 or more days (28.1 percent).

Despite the reason for readmission, the report found that patients' hospital returns led to some hefty Medicare costs. "In 2009, which is the last year for which we have statistics, Medicare just for seniors paid almost half a billion dollars for readmissions," spokesman Gary Tuma told Essential Public Radio. "That doesn't count the original hospital stay, that's just for readmission and treatment associated with it," he said.

For more:
- here's the PHC4 statement and report (.pdf)
- check out the Essential Public Radio piece