Public Policy

National Medicare Readmissions Study Identifies Little Progress


A new Dartmouth Atlas Project study of Medicare 30-day hospital readmissions found that rates essentially stayed the same (15.9% for medical discharges) between 2008 and 2010. But readmission rates varied widely across regions, with medical discharges at 18.1% in Bronx, N.Y., versus 11.4% in Ogden, Utah.

The report, The Revolving Door: A Report on U.S. Hospital Readmissions, also incorporates results from in-depth interviews with patients and providers.1 It sheds light on why so many patients (1 in 6 medical and 1 in 8 surgical discharges) end up back in the hospital so soon—and what hospitals, physicians, nurses, and others are doing to limit avoidable readmissions.

An online interactive map (available at displays the Dartmouth data on 30-day readmissions by hospital referral region.

The research was supported and publicized by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation of Princeton, N.J., which has a number of other efforts under way to address readmissions. Another recent study supported by the foundation’s Nurse Faculty Scholars Program found that increased nurse-to-patient staffing ratios and good working environments for nurses were associated with significantly reduced 30-day readmissions.2

The foundation recently named the five winners of its “Transitions to Better Care” video contest, in which hospitals and health systems submitted short films to highlight innovative local practices to improve care transitions before, during, and after discharge. Check out the winning videos by searching “contest” at


  1. The Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care. The Revolving Door: A Report on U.S. Hospital Readmissions. The Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care website. Available at: Accessed March 10, 2013.
  2. McHugh M, Ma C. Hospital nursing and 30-day readmissions among Medicare patients with heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, and pneumonia. Med Care. 2013;51(1):52-59.

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