Patient Care

Functional Impairment Boosts Readmission for Medicare Seniors


Clinical question: Is functional impairment associated with an increased risk of 30-day readmission?

Background: Many Medicare seniors suffer from some level of impairment in functional status, which, in turn, has been linked to high healthcare utilization. Studies that examine the role of functional impairment with readmission rates are limited.

Study design: Prospective, cohort study.

Setting: Seniors enrolled in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) with Medicare hospitalizations from Jan. 1, 2000, to Dec. 31, 2010.

Synopsis: The primary outcome was readmissions within 30 days of discharge. Activities of daily living (ADL) scale and instrumental ADL were used as measures of functional impairment.

Overall, 48.3% of patients had preadmission functional impairments with a readmission rate of 15.5%. There was a progressive increase in the adjusted risk of readmission as the degree of functional impairment increased: 13.5% with no functional impairment, 14.3% with difficulty in one or more instrumental ADLs (OR 1.06; 95% CI 0.94-1.20), 14.4% with difficulty in one or more ADLs (OR 1.08; 95% CI 0.96-1.21), 16.5% with dependency in one or two ADLs (OR, 1.26; 95% CI 1.11-1.44), and 18.2% with dependency in three or more ADLs (OR 1.42; 95% CI 1.20-1.69).

This observation was more pronounced in patients admitted for heart failure, MI, and pneumonia (16.9% readmission rate for no impairment vs. 25.7% dependency in three or more ADLs, OR 1.70; 95% CI 1.04-2.78).

Although the study is limited by reliance on survey data and Medicare claim data, functional status may be an important variable in calculating readmission risk and a potential target for intervention.

Bottom line: Functional impairment is associated with an increased risk of 30-day readmission, especially in patients admitted for heart failure, MI, and pneumonia.

Citation: Greysen SR, Stijacic Cenzer I, Auerbach AD, Covinsky KE. Functional impairment and hospital readmission in Medicare seniors. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(4):559-565.

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