Readmissions via ER climbing

Emergency department (ED) patients who recently were hospitalized are twice as likely to be admitted to the hospital than people who haven't visited the ED, concludes research from the University of Pennsylvania.

Researchers surveyed data of nearly 2.3 million emergency room visits from 2005 to 2008. They found that hospital readmission rates for previously hospitalized patients increased from 28.6 percent to 38 percent, compared to readmission rates for previously nonhospitalized patients that rose slightly from 15.3 percent to 17.2 percent.

Even though the readmission numbers are rising, the flip side to the study shows that most patients who come through the emergency department are, in fact, not readmitted.

"This means that the emergency department plays a major role in preventing readmissions by taking care of these patients and sending them home," said lead study author Zachary F. Meisel, MD, MPH, MSc, an emergency physician and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, in a statement yesterday.

"However, because admission decisions are often made in the emergency department, we need to better understand why recently discharged patients are more likely to be admitted to the hospital than people who have not recently been in the hospital. For example, are they being treated extra cautiously? Is there a sense on the part of emergency physicians that their inpatient physicians know these patients better and can take better care of them in the hospital?" he said.

With readmission rates closely watched, study authors stress the key to preventing readmission is the discharge process.

To learn more:
- read the UPenn press release