Patient Care

Comorbidities Contribute to Potentially Avoidable Hospital Readmissions


Clinical question: What is the role of comorbidities in 30-day potentially avoidable readmissions?

Background: Higher comorbidity burden has been associated with 30-day readmissions. This study evaluated the role of comorbidities in the 30-day rate of potentially avoidable readmissions from a tertiary-care medical center.

Study design: Retrospective cohort.

Setting: Tertiary-care teaching hospital and affiliated network.

Synopsis: Investigators tested the hypothesis that comorbidities significantly contribute to 30-day, potentially avoidable readmissions in a cohort of consecutively discharged medical patients at an academic medical center over a 12-month period. Out of a total of 10,731 discharges, there were 2,398 readmissions to hospitals in the same health system. Of those 2,398 readmissions, 858 (35.8%) were judged potentially avoidable using a validated algorithm. Frequently, the reason for readmission was not related to the index discharge diagnosis but to a complication of known comorbidities.

The authors identified the top five diagnoses for readmission as infection, neoplasm, heart failure, gastrointestinal disorder, and liver disorder. Among those patients who had a readmission diagnosis different from the index-case discharge diagnosis, the comorbidities of neoplastic disease, heart failure, and chronic kidney disease significantly contributed to readmission as compared to those without similar comorbidities.

Bottom line: The reason for readmission often is not related to the index hospitalization diagnosis but, rather, to comorbidities present at the index episode of care; thus, attention to management of comorbidities in the post-discharge period is important in circumventing potentially avoidable readmissions.

Citation: Donzé J, Lipsitz S, Bates DW, Schnipper JL. Causes and patterns of readmissions in patients with common comorbidities: retrospective cohort study. BMJ. 2013;347:F7171.

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