Importance: Medicare beneficiaries experience errors during transitions among care settings, yielding harms that include unnecessary rehospitalizations.
Objective: To evaluate whether implementation of improved care transitions for patients with Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) insurance is associated with reduced rehospitalizations and hospitalizations in geographic communities.
Design, setting, and participants: Quality improvement initiative for care transitions by health care and social services personnel and Medicare Quality Improvement Organization staff in defined geographic areas, with monitoring by community-specific and aggregate control charts and evaluation with pre-post comparison of performance differences for 14 intervention communities and 50 comparison communities from before (2006-2008) and during (2009-2010) implementation. Intervention communities had between 22,070 and 90,843 Medicare FFS beneficiaries.
Intervention: Quality Improvement Organizations facilitated community-wide quality improvement activities to implement evidence-based improvements in care transitions by community organizing, technical assistance, and monitoring of participation, implementation, effectiveness, and adverse effects.
Main outcome measures: The primary outcome measure was all-cause 30-day rehospitalizations per 1000 Medicare FFS beneficiaries; secondary outcome measures were all-cause hospitalizations per 1000 Medicare FFS beneficiaries and all-cause 30-day rehospitalizations as a percentage of hospital discharges.
Results: The mean rate of 30-day all-cause rehospitalizations per 1000 beneficiaries per quarter was 15.21 in 2006-2008 and 14.34 in 2009-2010 in the 14 intervention communities and was 15.03 in 2006-2008 and 14.72 in 2009-2010 in the 50 comparison communities, with the pre-post between-group difference showing larger reductions in rehospitalizations in intervention communities (by 0.56/1000 per quarter; 95% CI, 0.05-1.07; P = .03). The mean rate of hospitalizations per 1000 beneficiaries per quarter was 82.27 in 2006-2008 and 77.54 in 2009-2010 in intervention communities and was 82.09 in 2006-2008 and 79.48 in 2009-2010 in comparison communities, with the pre-post between-group difference showing larger reductions in hospitalizations in intervention communities (by 2.12/1000 per quarter; 95% CI, 0.47-3.77; P = .01). Mean community-wide rates of rehospitalizations as a percentage of hospital discharges in the intervention communities were 18.97% in 2006-2008 and 18.91% in 2009-2010 and were 18.76% in 2006-2008 and 18.91% in 2009-2010 in the comparison communities, with no significant difference in the pre-post between-group differences (0.22%; 95% CI, -0.08% to 0.51%; P = .14). Process control charts signaled onset of improvement coincident with initiating intervention.
Conclusions and relevance: Among Medicare beneficiaries in intervention communities, compared with those in uninvolved communities, all-cause 30-day rehospitalization and all-cause hospitalization declined. However, there was no change in the rate of all-cause 30-day rehospitalizations as a percentage of hospital discharges.