Nearly 20% of patients who are discharged from hospitals return for acute care within 30 days, researchers reported Tuesday.
The team, led by Yale emergency medicine researcher Dr. Anita A. Vashi, scoured records collected between July 2008 and September 2009 that reported on 4,028,555 patients in California, Florida and Nebraska. They found that 17.9% of hospitalizations resulted in at least one hospital-based “acute care encounter” within 30 days, including readmissions for inpatient care and emergency department visits. Just over 35% of the trips back to the hospital took place in the first seven days after discharge; 57.4% were in the first 14 days.
“Hospital-based acute care encounters are frequent among patients recently discharged from an inpatient setting,” Vashi and her colleagues wrote, in a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. (subscription required).
Hospital readmissions offer healthcare researchers one way to assess quality of care, they noted. While scientists have been studying statistics on readmissions for some time, the authors said, there hasn’t been as much investigation of the emergency room visits that don’t result in hospitalization, which may mean that researchers have an “incomplete picture.” Indeed, 39.8% of the trips back to the hospital that Vashi and her team studied were emergency room visits. These can result in fragmented care, duplication of services, increases in medical errors and higher costs, the researchers added.