Understanding why patients with COPD get readmitted: a large national study to delineate the Medicare population for the readmissions penalty expansion

Chest. 2015 May;147(5):1219-1226. doi: 10.1378/chest.14-2181.


Background: The Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP) penalizes hospitals for 30-day readmissions and was extended to COPD in October 2014. There is limited evidence available on readmission risk factors and reasons for readmission to guide hospitals in initiating programs to reduce COPD readmissions.

Methods: Medicare claims data from 2006 to 2010 in seven states were analyzed, with an index admission for COPD defined by discharge International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, codes as stipulated in the HRRP guidelines. Rates of index COPD admission and readmission, patient demographics, readmission diagnoses, and use of post-acute care (PAC) were investigated.

Results: Over the study period, there were 26,798,404 inpatient admissions, of which 3.5% were index COPD admissions. At 30 days, 20.2% were readmitted to the hospital. Respiratory-related diseases accounted for only one-half of the reasons for readmission, and COPD was the most common diagnosis, explaining 27.6% of all readmissions. Patients discharged home without home care were more likely to be readmitted for COPD than patients discharged to PAC (31.1% vs 18.8%, P < .001). Readmitted beneficiaries were more likely to be dually enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid (30.6% vs 25.4%, P < .001), have a longer median length of stay (5 days vs 4 days, P < .0001), and have more comorbidities (P < .001).

Conclusions: Medicare patients with COPD exacerbations are usually not readmitted for COPD, and these reasons differ depending on PAC use. Readmitted patients are more likely to be dually enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid, suggesting that the addition of COPD to the readmissions penalty may further worsen the disproportionately high penalties seen in safety net hospitals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicare / standards*
  • Patient Readmission / standards*
  • Patient Readmission / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / therapy*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States