Public reporting of discharge planning and rates of readmissions

N Engl J Med. 2009 Dec 31;361(27):2637-45. doi: 10.1056/NEJMsa0904859.


Background: A reduction in hospital readmissions may improve quality and reduce costs. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has initiated a national effort to measure and publicly report on the conduct of discharge planning. We know little about how U.S. hospitals perform on the current discharge metrics, the factors that underlie better performance, and whether better performance is related to lower readmission rates.

Methods: We examined hospital performance on the basis of two measures of discharge planning: the adequacy of documentation in the chart that discharge instructions were provided to patients with congestive heart failure, and patient-reported experiences with discharge planning. We examined the association between performance on these measures and rates of readmission for congestive heart failure and pneumonia.

Results: We found a weak correlation in performance between the two discharge measures (r=0.05, P<0.001). Although larger hospitals performed better on the chart-based measure, smaller hospitals and those with higher nurse-staffing levels performed better on the patient-reported measure. We found no association between performance on the chart-based measure and readmission rates among patients with congestive heart failure (readmission rates among hospitals performing in the highest quartile vs. the lowest quartile, 23.7% vs. 23.5%; P=0.54) and only a very modest association between performance on the patient-reported measure and readmission rates for congestive heart failure (readmission rates among hospitals performing in the highest quartile vs. the lowest quartile, 22.4% vs. 24.7%; P<0.001) and pneumonia (17.5% vs. 19.5%, P<0.001).

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that current efforts to collect and publicly report data on discharge planning are unlikely to yield large reductions in unnecessary readmissions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Benchmarking
  • Hospital Administration / methods
  • Hospital Administration / standards
  • Hospital Administration / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Patient Discharge / standards
  • Patient Discharge / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Readmission / statistics & numerical data*
  • Quality Indicators, Health Care*
  • United States