Hospital readmission rates for Medicare beneficiaries fell more in 2012 than in the five preceding years combined, according to a report from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
During calendar year 2012, the national 30-day hospital readmission rate averaged 18.4%, down from an average 19% between 2007 and 2011.
Hospitals participating in certain initiatives geared toward avoiding readmissions saw their average rates decline lower than those of non-participating hospitals, notes the results published in the online academic journal Medicare & Medicaid Research Review.
Over the years, CMS has undertaken several initiatives to curb readmissions among the Medicare fee-for-service population. These have included reporting hospital readmission rates through programs such as Hospital Compare and Partnership for Patients, as well as changing payment policies and various shared savings initiatives.
As a result, many hospitals and other organizations have employed strategies to reduce readmissions, such as enhanced patient education, more post-discharge follow-up care and increased coordination with outpatient providers.
Although claims data has not yet been filed for 2012, preliminary data included in the report indicates that hospital readmission rates among Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries were significantly lower that year compared to previous years.
Since the report analyzes the trends in readmission rates and does not address the factors that may have played a role in the observed change, the reasons behind the reduction for 2012 are not yet clear, writes the study’s authors.
One possible explanation the analysis suggests is that payment reforms and other initiatives are starting to have a measurable impact on provider behavior, and thus, are resulting in improved care.
Another possible explanation is that rates have declined as a result of more beneficiaries receiving post-discharge care through emergency departments, observational stays or other non-inpatient settings.
Written by Jason Oliva