Social Factors and Patient Perceptions Associated With Preventable Hospital Readmissions

J Patient Exp. 2020 Feb;7(1):19-26. doi: 10.1177/2374373518825143. Epub 2019 Feb 7.


Background: Preventable hospital readmissions are costly and erode the quality of care delivery. Few efforts to incorporate the patient perspectives and social factors associated with readmission preventability exist.

Objective: To identify patient perceptions and social barriers to care related to readmission.

Methods: Prospective cohort study of 202 respondents readmitted within 30 days of hospital discharge from 2 inpatient adult medicine units at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts between January 2012 and January 2016.

Results: Few participants indicated that their readmission was due to unattainable health care after discharge. Almost half indicated that they needed more general assistance to stay well outside the hospital. Those reporting a barrier related to at least 2 measures of social determinants of health were more likely to have preventable readmissions (34% vs 17%, P = .006). Participants with a history of homelessness or substance use disorder were more likely to have preventable readmissions (44% vs 20%, P = .04 and 32% vs 18%, P = .03, respectively).

Conclusion: Strengthening nonmedical support systems and general social policy may be required to reduce preventable readmissions.

Keywords: hospital medicine; patient perspectives; readmission preventability; readmissions; social determinants of health.