Higher Hospital Readmissions Aren't Linked To Fewer Deaths

Wed, 02/13/2013 - 9:24am
Jordan Rau

Some hospitals with high readmission rates say they’re saving lives by bringing patients back at the first hint of trouble. The evidence for this is that a handful of hospitals with high readmission rates also have extremely low death rates among Medicare patients.

But a study published Tuesday finds that there's no major link between hospitals with high readmissions and those with low mortality rates. The findings come as Medicare ramps up financial penalties for hospitals with higher readmission rates in an effort to improve quality and contain costs.

Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found no relationship between readmissions and mortality rates for Medicare patients who had heart attacks or pneumonia between 2005 and 2008. The paper did find a "modest" inverse relationship between readmissions and death rates for heart failure patients, where hospitals with low death rates tended to have somewhat higher readmission rates. But that was only for a small portion of hospitals and not strong even then.

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