Patient Care

Pediatric Readmissions Vary Significantly Across Children’s Hospitals


Pediatric Readmissions Vary Significantly across Children’s Hospitals

Clinical question: What are the characteristics of readmissions to children’s hospitals?

Background: Thirty-day readmissions in adult Medicare beneficiaries are common and thought to represent potential for significant improvements in the quality of care. Penalties will be levied upon hospitals with excessively high readmission rates in adults. The stage is set for a translation of this practice to pediatric readmissions. However, the characteristics of readmissions to children’s hospitals are not well-defined.

Study design: Retrospective review.

Setting: National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions (NACHRI) Case Mix data set.

Synopsis: Of 568,845 readmissions examined across 72 children’s hospitals, the 30-day readmission rate was 6.5%. Readmission rates varied by many factors: age, chronic conditions, insurance type, race/ethnicity, length of stay, number of annual hospital admissions, and hospital type. Rates varied significantly across hospitals, even after adjustment for age and chronic conditions. Anemia or neutropenia, ventricular shunt procedures, and sickle cell crisis had the highest unadjusted, 30-day, condition-specific readmission rates.

This study is notable for its large sample size but limited by the administrative data, which might, for example, underestimate readmissions that went to another hospital. Additionally, the majority of children in the U.S. are hospitalized outside of children’s hospitals, which are overrepresented in this study.

However, this study paints a clear picture of the differences between adult readmissions and pediatric readmissions—rates are lower than in elderly adults, and the top three conditions are distinctly different. Anemia or neutropenia likely are due to effects of chemotherapy; ventricular shunt readmissions often reflect surgery-related issues; and sickle cell disease is a lifelong, chronic condition. The significant variation between hospitals after case-mix adjustment offers an opportunity for further investigation and improvement.

Bottom line: Pediatric readmissions differ from adult readmissions and vary significantly across children’s hospitals.

Citation: Berry JG, Toomey SL, Zaslavsky AM, et al. Pediatric readmission prevalence and variability across hospitals. JAMA. 2013;309(4):372-380.

Reviewed by Pediatric Editor Mark Shen, MD, SFHM, medical director of hospital medicine at Dell Children's Medical Center, Austin, Texas.

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