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Discharge Planning Measures May Not Cut Readmissions

Last Updated: December 30, 2009.

Hospitals that collate and make publicly available discharge planning data do not necessarily have lower readmission rates than those that do not collate the data, according to a study in the Dec. 31 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Hospitals that collate and make publicly available discharge planning data do not necessarily have lower readmission rates than those that do not collate the data, according to a study in the Dec. 31 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

To see if there was an association between performance and readmission rates for congestive heart failure and pneumonia, Ashish K. Jha, M.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues looked at the adequacy of data in discharge documentation for congestive heart failure patients and reports from patients on discharge planning.

There was no difference in readmission rates related to different performance on the chart-based measure, and only a small association between the patient-reported measure and readmission rates, the researchers found. Readmission rates for the highest quartile hospitals on this measure were 22.4 percent, versus 24.7 percent for the lowest quartile, the investigators note.

"Our findings indicate that improvements in performance on current measures of discharge planning are unlikely to have a meaningful effect," the authors write. "The large variation in readmission rates across health care markets suggests ample opportunity for improvement, but to substantially reduce readmission rates, we will probably need new strategies to improve transitional care in the ambulatory sector."

The lead author of the study reported receiving consulting fees from UpToDate Inc., an evidence based, peer reviewed information resource.

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