Rationale: Approximately 20% of patients hospitalized for COPD exacerbations in the United States will be readmitted within 30 days. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has recently proposed to revise the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program to financially penalize hospitals with high all-cause 30-day rehospitalization rates after a hospitalization for COPD exacerbation on or after October 1, 2014.
Objectives: To report the results of a systematic review of randomized clinical trials evaluating interventions to reduce the rehospitalizations after COPD exacerbations.
Methods: Multiple electronic databases were systematically searched to identify relevant studies published between January 1966 and June 2013. Titles, abstracts, and, subsequently, full-text articles were assessed for eligibility. Each study was appraised using predefined criteria.
Measurements and main results: Among 913 titles and abstracts screened, 5 studies (1,393 participants) met eligibility criteria. All studies had a primary outcome of rehospitalization at 6 or 12 months. No study examined 30-day rehospitalization as the primary outcome. Each study tested a different set of interventions. Two studies (one conducted in Canada and one conducted in Spain and Belgium) showed a decrease in all-cause rehospitalization over 12 months in the intervention group versus comparator group (mean number of hospitalizations per patient, 1.0 vs. 1.8; P = 0.01; percent hospitalized, 45 vs. 67%; P = 0.028; respectively). The only study conducted in the United States found a greater than twofold higher risk of mortality in the intervention group (17 vs. 7%, P = 0.003) but no significant difference in rehospitalizations. It was unclear which set of interventions was effective or harmful.
Conclusions: The evidence base is inadequate to recommend specific interventions to reduce rehospitalizations in this population and does not justify penalizing hospitals for high 30-day rehospitalization rates after COPD exacerbations.