Strategies to reduce hospital readmission rates aren't harming patients post-discharge, study shows

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Hospitals' efforts to lower readmission rates didn't raise patients' post-discharge mortality rates, a new study shows.

Researchers with Yale University used data from Medicare beneficiaries hospitalized for heart failure, acute myocardial infarction or pneumonia to study how 30-day readmission rate trends compared to 30-day mortality rates following hospital discharge.

Their findings, published online this week in JAMA, found that 30-day readmission rates were “weakly but significantly correlated” with drops in mortality rates. That result refutes concerns that hospitals working to reduce their readmission rates may have done so at the expense of patient safety.

The Yale team's findings are “certainly good news,” said Karen Joynt Maddox, M.D., MPH, an assistant professor at Washington University School of Medicine, in an accompanying editorial.

“The fact that these [readmission reduction] strategies do not inadvertently increase mortality rates, and may even have some positive effects, is even more reason to continue this important work helping patients transition safely from hospital to home,” Joynt Maddox wrote.

Despite its positive findings, the study did not address another concern surrounding readmission rates — that hospital providers are favoring readmission initiatives over those that reduce mortality rates, Joynt Maddox said.