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Readmission rates should be re-examined as measure of quality, AHA report says


By Ashok Selvam
Posted: September 15, 2011 - 5:30 pm ET
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While unnecessary hospital readmissions should be avoided to lower the cost of healthcare, eliminating planned readmissions would have an adverse effect on healthcare, according to an American Hospital Association report (PDF).

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The report appears in the September edition of the AHA's Trendwatch, and states that readmission rates alone may be an “ill-advised measure of quality.” About 2 million Medicare patients each year return to the hospital within 30 days of discharge, according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Committee. But the AHA said more research is needed, as hospitals with lower readmission rates won't necessarily deliver better care and don't have lower mortality rates. Patients with chronic heart disease provide an example, as hospital staff could monitor their condition, but upon discharge they're unlikely to have home supervision.

The AHA wants policy focused on reducing unplanned admissions and those unrelated to the initial hospital visit.

The same research also takes issue with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, saying that instead of using the number of expected readmissions for each condition to determine how much money hospitals should pay back to Medicare, the government uses the total of number of readmissions for each condition. The current language inflates the amount hospitals should pay, the AHA said.


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