Importance: Patient concerns at or before discharge inform many transitional care interventions; few studies examine patients' perceptions of self-care and other factors related to readmission.
Objectives: To characterise patient-reported or caregiver-reported factors contributing to readmission.
Design, setting and participants: Cross-sectional, national study of general medicine patients readmitted within 30 days at 12 US hospitals. Interviews included multiple-choice survey and open-ended survey questions of patients or their caregivers.
Measurements: Multiple-choice survey quantified post-discharge difficulty in seven domains of self-care: medication use, contacting providers, transportation, basic needs (eg, food and shelter), diet, social support and substance abuse. Open-ended responses were coded into themes that added depth to the domains above or captured additional patient-centred concerns.
Results: We interviewed 1066 readmitted patients. 91% reported understanding their discharge plan; however, only 37% reported that providers asked about barriers to carrying out the plan. 52% reported experiencing difficulty in ≥1 self-care domains ranging in frequency from 22% (diet) to 7% (substance use); 26% experienced difficulty in two or more domains. Among 508 patients (48% overall) who reported no difficulties in these domains, two-thirds either could not attribute their readmission to any specific difficulty (34%) or attributed their readmission to progression or persistence of their disease despite following their discharge plan (31%). Only 20% attributed their readmission to early discharge (8%), poor-quality hospital care (6%) or issues such as inadequate discharge instructions or follow-up care (6%).
Limitations: The study population included only patients readmitted at academic medical centres and may not be representative of community-based care.
Conclusion: Patients readmitted within 30 days reported understanding their discharge plans, but frequent difficulties in self-care and low anticipatory guidance for resolving these issues after discharge.
Keywords: Health policy; Health services research; Hospital medicine; Patient-centred care; Qualitative research.
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