Background: The economic impact and ease of measurement of all-cause hospital readmission rates (HRR) have led to the current debate as to whether they are reducible, and whether they should be used as a publicly reported quality indicators of medical care.
Objective: To assess the efficacy of broad clinical interventions in preventing HRR of patients with chronic diseases
Method: A meta-review of published systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of clinical interventions that have included HRR among the patients' outcomes of interest.
Main findings: Meta-analyses of RCTs have consistently found that, in the community, disease management programs significantly reduced HRR in patients with heart failure, coronary heart disease and bronchial asthma, but not in patients with stroke and in unselected patients with chronic disorders. Inhospital interventions, such as discharge planning, pharmacological consultations and multidisciplinary care, and community interventions in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases had an inconsistent effect on HRR. MAIN STUDY LIMITATION: Despite their economic impact and ease of measurement, HRR are not the most important outcome of patient care, and efforts aimed at their reduction may compromise patients' health by reducing also justified re-admissions.
Conclusions: The efficacy of inhospital interventions in reducing HRR is in need of further study. In patients with heart diseases and bronchial asthma, HRR may be considered as a publicly reported quality indicator of community care, provided that future research confirms that efforts to reduce HRR do not adversely affect other patients' outcomes, such as mortality, functional capacity and quality of life. Future research should also focus on the reasons for the higher efficacy of community interventions in patients with heart diseases and bronchial asthma than in those with other chronic diseases.