A study in the April 2 New England Journal of Medicine estimates that Medicare payments for unplanned re-hospitalizations totaled $17.4 billion in 2004. Researchers used Medicare claims data from 2003–2004 to describe the patterns of rehospitalization and the relation of rehospitalization to demographic characteristics of the patients and to characteristics of the hospitals. Based on that data, the authors estimate that almost one fifth of Medicare beneficiaries who had been discharged from a hospital were rehospitalized within 30 days, and nearly 1/3 were rehospitalized within 90 days; two-thirds who had been discharged with medical conditions and 51.5% of those who had been discharged after surgical procedures were rehospitalized or died within the first year after discharge.
Other findings according to the article:
• In the case of 50.2% of the patients who were rehospitalized within 30 days after a medical discharge to the community, there was no bill for a visit to a physician's office between the time of discharge and rehospitalization.
• Among patients who were rehospitalized within 30 days after a surgical discharge, 70.5% were rehospitalized for a medical condition.
• About 10% of rehospitalizations were likely to have been planned.
• The average stay of rehospitalized patients was 0.6 day longer than that of patients in the same diagnosis-related group whose most recent hospitalization had been at least 6 months previously.
(SOURCES: The New England Journal of Medicine, http://nejm.org, Jencks, et.al., "Rehospitalizations among Patients in the Medicare Fee-for-Service Program," 2009 360: 1418-1428, accessed April 1, 2009; AHA News Now, http://ahanews.com, April 1, 2009)