Context: Early hospital readmission is emerging as an indicator of care quality. Some children with chronic illnesses may be readmitted on a recurrent basis, but there are limited data describing their rehospitalization patterns and impact.
Objectives: To describe the inpatient resource utilization, clinical characteristics, and admission reasons of patients recurrently readmitted to children's hospitals.
Design, setting, and patients: Retrospective cohort analysis of 317,643 patients (n = 579,504 admissions) admitted to 37 US children's hospitals in 2003 with follow-up through 2008.
Main outcome measure: Maximum number of readmissions experienced by each child within any 365-day interval during the 5-year follow-up period.
Results: In the sample, 69,294 patients (21.8%) experienced at least 1 readmission within 365 days of a prior admission. Within a 365-day interval, 9237 patients (2.9%) experienced 4 or more readmissions; time between admissions was a median 37 days (interquartile range [IQR], 21-63). These patients accounted for 18.8% (109,155 admissions) of all admissions and 23.2% ($3.4 billion) of total inpatient charges for the study cohort during the entire follow-up period. Tests for trend indicated that as the number of readmissions increased from 0 to 4 or more, the prevalences increased for a complex chronic condition (from 22.3% [n = 55,382/248,349] to 89.0% [n = 8225/9237]; P < .001), technology assistance (from 5.3% [n = 13,163] to 52.6% [n = 4859]; P < .001), public insurance use (from 40.9% [n = 101,575] to 56.3% [n = 5202]; P < .001), and non-Hispanic black race (from 21.8% [n = 54,140] to 34.4% [n = 3181]; P < .001); and the prevalence decreased for readmissions associated with an ambulatory care-sensitive condition (from 23.1% [62,847/272,065] to 14.0% [15,282/109,155], P < .001). Of patients readmitted 4 or more times in a 365-day interval, 2633 (28.5%) were rehospitalized for a problem in the same organ system across all admissions during the interval.
Conclusions: Among a group of pediatric hospitals, 18.8% of admissions and 23.2% of inpatient charges were accounted for by the 2.9% of patients with frequent recurrent admissions. Many of these patients were rehospitalized recurrently for a problem in the same organ system.