The Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4) conducted a first-of-its-kind study examining the hospital readmission rate of adults ages 18 and older statewide. The group found that about 13.5% of hospital stays were followed by at least one readmission within 30 days. About a third of those readmissions were the direct result of a complication or infection. But, that doesn't necessarily mean there was a problem with the patient's care. PHC4 Spokesman Gary Tuma said a number of factors could be at play.
"It could be how well the patient follows his or her instructions after discharge, if they either didn't understand them correctly or simply were prevented somehow from following their discharge instructions, that could put them back in the hospital, and sometimes it's just the normal progression of the disease," he said.
But regardless of the reason for readmission, the PHC4 report found the costs associated are great.
"In 2009, which is the last year for which we have statistics, Medicare just for seniors paid almost half a billion dollars for readmissions. That doesn't count the original hospital stay, that's just for readmission and treatment associated with it," said Tuma.
Because that cost estimate includes only senior care, Tuma added the total costs are likely much greater.
Readmission data has been included in some prior regional studies, but this is the first time the issue was looked at on a statewide level.
"We hope that by putting this data out there it provides a good starting point and encourages the medical community and policy makers to take a look at areas where we can improve on the readmission rage," said Tuma.
Among the other key findings in the PHC4 2010 report:
- Patients with heart failure had the highest total number of readmissions in the state, 8,846, resulting in a readmission rate of 24.3%. Mental health disorder patients had the second highest number at 6,533, followed by those with abnormal heartbeat at 6,526.
- The risk of readmission increased with the length of the initial hospital stay, from a 9% rate when the patient was in the hospital for one day to 28.1% when the initial stay lasted 15 or more days.
- The risk of readmission increased with the number of additional conditions present aside from the main reason for the original admission. The readmission rate was 5.2% for patients with one additional condition and 26.5% for patients with 17 or more.