Hospitals devote significant human and capital resources to eliminate hospital readmissions, prompted most recently by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) financial penalties for higher-than-expected readmission rates. Implicit in these efforts are assumptions that a significant proportion of readmissions are preventable, and preventable readmissions can be identified. Yet, no consensus exists in the literature regarding methods to determine which readmissions are reasonably preventable. In this article, we examine strengths and limitations of the CMS readmission metric, explore how preventable readmissions have been defined and measured, and discuss implications for readmission reduction efforts. Drawing on our clinical, research and operational experiences, we offer suggestions to address the key challenges in moving forward to measure and reduce preventable readmissions.
© 2014 Society of Hospital Medicine.