30% of pediatric readmissions may be preventable, study finds

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Nearly 30 percent of pediatric readmissions may be preventable, according to a new study published in Pediatrics.

The team reviewed medical records for 305 patients who were readmitted within 30 days to Boston Children’s Hospital from December 2012 to February 2013. Researchers also interviewed clinicians and parents of the children in the study. Planned readmissions for treatments like chemotherapy were also included.

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Hospital-related factors played a role in more than three-quarters of the preventable readmissions, according to the study. The team found the most common reasons were related with how the patients were assessed after an operation, complications after surgery or hospital-acquired infections. Healthcare miscommunications contribute to as many as a quarter of readmissions overall, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

“One of the things we need to improve upon is engaging families at the time of discharge around how we’re feeling and how they’re feeling about the status of the child at that point in time,” Sara Toomey, M.D., the study’s lead author and the medical director of patient experience at Boston Children’s Hospital, told Kaiser Health News.

The researchers emphasized the value of interviews with clinicians, patients and families when evaluating readmission data, too, according to the study. Readmissions are used as metrics to penalize hospitals, a strategy that has come under fire from providers. Although the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services doesn't yet punish hospitals for pediatric readmissions, researchers note that a number of states impose such penalties.

Toomey told KHN that while readmissions may be impossible to completely eliminate, organization must take an active role in preparing patients and families for discharge. “The more active people are in creating a plan and making sure they understand it, the better that will help their children,” she told KHN.

- here’s the study abstract
- read the KHN article

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