An international study of hospital readmissions and related utilization in Europe and the USA

Health Policy. 2002 Sep;61(3):269-78. doi: 10.1016/s0168-8510(01)00236-6.


This study concerns a comparative analysis of hospital readmission rates and related utilization in six areas, including three European countries (Finland, Scotland and the Netherlands) and three states in the USA (New York, California, Washington State). It includes a data analysis on six major causes of hospitalization across these areas. Its main focus is on two questions. (1) Do hospital readmission rates vary among the causes of hospitalization and the study populations? (2) Are hospital inpatient lengths of stay inversely related to readmissions rates? The study demonstrated that diagnoses such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and congestive heart failure (CHF) were the major causes of hospital readmission rates. The data showed that (initial) hospital stays were generally longer for patients who were readmitted than for those who were not. As a result, short stays were not associated with a higher risk of readmission, meaning that hospital readmissions were not produced by premature hospital discharges in the study population. Furthermore, the spatial variation in readmission rates within 7 versus 8-30 days showed to be identical. Finally, it was found that countries or states with relatively shorter stays showed higher readmission rates and vice versa. Since patients with readmissions in all of the areas had on average longer initial stays, this finding at country level does illustrate that there seems to be a country specific trade off between length of stay and rate of readmission. An explanation should be sought in differences in health care arrangements per area, including factors that determine length of stay levels and readmission rates in individual countries (e.g. managed care penetration, after care by GP's or home care).

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Hip / statistics & numerical data
  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • Asthma / therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / therapy
  • Diagnosis-Related Groups / classification*
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Health Services Research
  • Heart Failure / epidemiology
  • Heart Failure / therapy
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / methods*
  • Patient Readmission / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Readmission / trends
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / epidemiology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / therapy
  • Quality Indicators, Health Care*
  • Scotland / epidemiology
  • Stroke / epidemiology
  • Stroke / therapy
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Utilization Review