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Heart Failure Hospital Readmission Rate Improves Little

Study finds minimal reductions since 2009

Heart failure readmission rates, a focus of hospitals aiming to reduce costs nationwide, have improved only slightly over the past few years, a new study finds.

Kristen E. Bergethon and her team examined data from 21,264 heart failure patients at 70 U.S. sites from January 2009 to October 2012 and found that risk-adjusted 30-day heart failure readmission rates decreased marginally from 20.2% to 19.05%. The research by Bergethon, an MD candidate at Duke Clinical Research Institute, and her team was presented at the Heart Failure Society of America Annual Scientific Meeting and published in the Journal of Cardiac Failure.

"While there was slight improvement in 30-day readmissions over the past four years, few hospitals have seen large success," Bergethon said in the announcement of the study. "Our data suggest that structural factors and teaching hospital status may have a bigger impact on readmission rates than previously assumed."

Heart failure readmissions are also a key target of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service’s Hospital Readmission Reductions Program.

According to FierceHealthcare, 2014 research revealed that safety-net hospitals and hospitals with largely low-income patient populations are at particular risk for heart failure readmissions. Patients from lower-income neighborhoods, researchers found, were nearly 17% more likely to be readmitted within six months of discharge. 

A 2013 study found that a number of strategies, when implemented together rather than individually, could reduce heart failure readmissions by approximately 2% and save more than $100 million. Those strategies include partnerships with local hospitals; giving nurses responsibility for medication reconciliation; arranging for follow-up visits prior to discharge; partnerships with community doctors and physician groups; and assigning staff to follow up on postdischarge test results.

Source: FierceHealthcare; September 28, 2015.

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