Reporting Hospital Compare data does little to curb readmissions

Quality care guidelines and public reporting of performance scores through Hospital Compare won't keep patients from readmitting, according to a study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, Reuters reported.

Researchers looked at Medicare patients over 66 years old from about 2,700 U.S. hospitals and found that hospitals with greater adherence to recommended care processes did not see significantly lower 30-day readmission rates. In fact, the study concluded that performance scores only explained less than 1 percent of the observed variation in risk-standardized readmission rates across hospitals.

The researchers noted that some of the process measures may have minimal effect on readmission risk. For example, hospitals would see the benefits of smoking cessation counseling over the long-term, not within 30 days of discharge.

Another explanation is that many readmissions are caused by social factors--such as patients' income level, employment status, race, education and age--outside of hospitals' control, according to another Journal of General Internal Medicine study last month.

The findings may raise questions about whether hospitals should continue to focus on collecting and publicly reporting data on these process measures, as well as whether pay-for-performance programs and consumers should use them to identify high-performing hospitals, the study noted.

However, researchers noted Hospital Compare data can complement outcome measures to better reflect quality.

The findings echo a study published in the September issue of Circulation: Heart Failure that found most hospital strategies to improve care processes didn't significantly affect heart failure readmissions. According to researchers at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, neither inpatient care nor general quality-improvement process changes affected 30-day readmission rates.

For more:
- check out the study and abstract
- read the Reuters article