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'Readmissions Week' Recap

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, February 14, 2013

On Monday, for example, authors of a paper in JAMA Internal Medicine suggested that, since for the subset of patients undergoing colon surgery, (there should be a separate lineup of discharge instructions..  There are 600,000 such procedures performed each year and the readmission rate is 16.6%.

The paper's authors, from Baylor College of Medicine and the Houston VA surveyed an expert panel and developed 12 warning signs planners and physicians should make sure their patients know about.

In time, patients hospitalized for other reasons, whether surgical or medical conditions, might get their own tailored lists.

On Tuesday, the Dartmouth Atlas and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation rolled out its latest report, "The Revolving Door Syndrome,"showing that in 2010 compared with 2008, hospitals reduced readmission rates by just one-third of a percent. Worse, there is still wide variability throughout the country even within specific types of hospitals such as academic medical centers.

The Dartmouth group sliced the data even further to show  high and low rates of readmissions in regions around the country depending on whether the patient was hospitalized for a surgical procedure or for a medical condition, such as congestive heart failure, pneumonia, or heart attack.

During an interview with David Goodman, MD, co-principal investigator for the Dartmouth Atlas Project, I asked if it wasn't a bit unfair to criticize hospitals for not reducing readmissions by 2010.

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