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Emergency Care May Be Key to Hospital Readmissions

THURSDAY, June 2 (HealthDay News) -- People who seek treatment in an emergency department after a recent hospitalization are more than twice as likely to be readmitted to the hospital as those who had not been hospitalized, a new study has found.

The finding suggests that emergency departments can help reduce the readmission rate for hospital patients, according to the researchers, who were to present the study Friday at the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine's annual meeting in Boston.

"Patients who return to the emergency department within seven days of hospitalization have both relatively high and increasing rates of readmission," the study's leader, Dr. Zachary F. Meisel, an emergency physician and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, said in university news release. "These findings are important because they come at a time when there is a great effort underway to reduce hospital readmission rates, and they give us clues about how emergency departments can play a role in that process."

The researchers analyzed about 2.3 million emergency department visits that occurred in a three-year period, finding that readmission rates for recently hospitalized patients increased from 28.6 percent to 38 percent. In contrast, admission rates for people who had not been recently hospitalized rose just two points, to 17.2 percent.

Further study is needed to better understand why recently discharged patients are more likely to be readmitted to the hospital and what hospitals can do to limit repeat visits to the ER after a patient's discharge, the researchers said.

Experts note that research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary because it has not been subjected to the rigorous scrutiny given to research published in medical journals.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers data on emergency department visits.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, news release, June 1, 2011

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