Background: About 1 in 5 Medicare fee-for-service patients discharged from the hospital is rehospitalized within 30 days. Beginning in 2013, hospitals with high risk-standardized readmission rates will be subject to a Medicare reimbursement penalty.
Purpose: To describe interventions evaluated in studies aimed at reducing rehospitalization within 30 days of discharge.
Data sources: MEDLINE, EMBASE, Web of Science, and the Cochrane Library were searched for reports published between January 1975 and January 2011.
Study selection: English-language randomized, controlled trials; cohort studies; or noncontrolled before-after studies of interventions to reduce rehospitalization that reported rehospitalization rates within 30 days.
Data extraction: 2 reviewers independently identified candidate articles from the results of the initial search on the basis of title and abstract. Two 2-physician reviewer teams reviewed the full text of candidate articles to identify interventions and assess study quality.
Data synthesis: 43 articles were identified, and a taxonomy was developed to categorize interventions into 3 domains that encompassed 12 distinct activities. Predischarge interventions included patient education, medication reconciliation, discharge planning, and scheduling of a follow-up appointment before discharge. Postdischarge interventions included follow-up telephone calls, patient-activated hotlines, timely communication with ambulatory providers, timely ambulatory provider follow-up, and postdischarge home visits. Bridging interventions included transition coaches, physician continuity across the inpatient and outpatient setting, and patient-centered discharge instruction.
Limitations: Inadequate description of individual studies' interventions precluded meta-analysis of effects. Many studies identified in the review were single-institution assessments of quality improvement activities rather than those with experimental designs. Several common interventions have not been studied outside of multicomponent "discharge bundles."
Conclusion: No single intervention implemented alone was regularly associated with reduced risk for 30-day rehospitalization.
Primary funding source: None.