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Hospital Readmission Rates on the Rise in Older Adults: Study
Date:10/4/2011

TUESDAY, Oct. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Readmission rates have increased in many hospitals across the United States, including some of the country's most elite academic medical centers, new research shows. About one in six Medicare patients now returns to the hospital within 30 days of being discharged for a medical condition.

This news comes as hospitals brace for penalties -- reduced payments for readmissions -- for excessive readmission rates among Medicare patients that take effect in 2013, according to a news release from the Dartmouth Atlas Project, the source of the new report.

In conducting the study, researchers analyzed hospital discharge records of nearly 11 million Medicare patients. They found big discrepancies in 30-day readmission rates across U.S. regions and academic medical centers and a lack of follow-up care for discharged patients. And, they found, more than half of Medicare patients do not see a primary care clinician within two weeks of leaving the hospital.

"The report highlights widespread and systematic failures in coordinating care for patients after they leave the hospital," study lead author, Dr. David C. Goodman, director of the Center for Health Policy Research at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, said in the news release. "Irrespective of the cause, unnecessary hospital readmissions lead to more tests and treatments, more time away from home and family, and higher health care costs."

Although 30-day readmission rates remained largely unchanged in the United States between 2004 and 2009, readmissions decreased in 11 regions. Leading the pack: Bismarck, N.D., where readmissions for medical conditions dropped to 14 percent in 2009, from more than 16 percent in 2004.

In contrast, readmissions for medical conditions rose in 27 regions across the country. The worst offender was Aurora, Ill., where readmissions jumped to 18 percent in 2009 from a little
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