Not all hospital readmissions are bad, study finds

Sometimes hospital readmissions are not a bad thing, according to new research.

In an effort to push hospitals around the nation to improve care of patients and cut costs, federal regulators began in 2012 to impose financial penalties on facilities that had more readmissions than should be expected.

New research from Johns Hopkins now suggests that not all of the readmissions are bad.

The study involved three years worth of records from 4,500 hospital readmission and mortality rates in six areas of concern to regulators at the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The researchers found that patients with heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and stroke in hospitals with the highest rates of readmission were more likely to survive.

Dr. Daniel J. Brotman, professor of medicine at the Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of the Johns Hopkins Hospitalist Program, commended the push for quality at less cost but said some readmissions could be caused by complications or bad handoffs from one medical team to another.

"But using readmission rates as a measure of hospital quality is inherently problematic," Brotman said in a statement.. "High readmission rates could stem from the legitimate need to care for chronically ill patients in high-intensity settings."

The federal agency reduced reimbursements for thousands of hospitals in the last year, though none in Maryland, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The state has a unique agreement with that agency that allows it to set hospitals rates for all its payers.

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