Medicare's Hospital Readmission Reduction Program reduced fall-related health care use: An unexpected benefit?

Health Serv Res. 2024 Feb;59(1):e14246. doi: 10.1111/1475-6773.14246. Epub 2023 Oct 8.


Objective: To assess whether Medicare's Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP) was associated with a reduction in severe fall-related injuries (FRIs).

Data sources and study setting: Secondary data from Medicare were used.

Study design: Using an event study design, among older (≥65) Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries, we assessed changes in 30- and 90-day FRI readmissions before and after HRRP's announcement (April 2010) and implementation (October 2012) for conditions targeted by the HRRP (acute myocardial infarction [AMI], congestive heart failure [CHF], and pneumonia) versus "non-targeted" (gastrointestinal) conditions. We tested for modification by hospitals with "high-risk" before HRRP and accounted for potential upcoding. We also explored changes in 30-day FRI readmissions involving emergency department (ED) or outpatient care, care processes (length of stay, discharge destination, and primary care visit), and patient selection (age and comorbidities).

Data collection: Not applicable.

Principal findings: We identified 1.5 million (522,596 pre-HRRP, 514,844 announcement, and 474,029 implementation period) index discharges. After its announcement, HRRP was associated with 12%-20% reductions in 30- and 90-day FRI readmissions for patients with CHF (-0.42 percentage points [ppt], p = 0.02; -1.53 ppt, p < 0.001) and AMI (-0.35, p = 0.047; -0.97, p = 0.001). Two years after implementation, HRRP was associated with reductions in 90-day FRI readmission for AMI (-1.27 ppt, p = 0.01) and CHF (-0.98 ppt, p = 0.02) patients. Results were similar for hospitals at higher versus lower baseline risk of FRI readmission. After HRRP's announcement, decreases were observed in home health (AMI: -2.43 ppt, p < 0.001; CHF: -8.83 ppt, p < 0.001; pneumonia: -1.97 ppt, p < 0.001) and skilled nursing facility referrals (AMI: -5.95 ppt, p < 0.001; CHF: -3.19 ppt, p < 0.001; pneumonia: -10.27 ppt, p < 0.001).

Conclusions: HRRP was associated with reductions in FRIs, primarily for HF and pneumonia patients. These decreases may reflect improvements in transitional care including changes in post-acute referral patterns that benefit patients at risk for falls.

Keywords: HRRP; Medicare; fall injury; policy; readmissions.

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control
  • Aged
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Heart Failure* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Medicare
  • Myocardial Infarction* / therapy
  • Patient Readmission
  • Pneumonia* / therapy
  • United States