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Member Research and Reports

Yale: Study Suggests Hospital Readmission Policy Did Not Increase Patients’ Mortality Risk

The Obamacare program intended to reduce the risk of patients being readmitted after hospitalizations for heart attacks, heart failure, and pneumonia has not caused an increase in mortality risk for patients in emergency departments or observational units, according to a new report.

Doctors from Yale and the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center conducted the study, which appears Jan. 15 in The BMJ (British Medical Journal).

The program — formally called the U.S. Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program —penalizes hospitals with higher than average readmission rates, and has led to national efforts to reduce the number of patients being readmitted to hospitals. Critics have warned that the program might incentivize hospitals to send home some people who need to be admitted a second time, increasing their risk of dying.

The new study evaluated trends in patient mortality from the time of the readmission program’s announcement through its implementation. The researchers found no evidence of an increase in death associated with the program. In particular, among those seen in the emergency department or admitted to an observation ward (and not subsequently re-hospitalized), there was no evidence of an increase in the death rate over time, the researchers said.

“This study adds to the evidence that the readmission policy is safe and is not increasing the risk of death by turning away people who need to be re-hospitalized,” said Dr. Harlan Krumholz, cardiologist and director of the Yale Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation (CORE), and senior author of the report.

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