According to a recent national study conducted by Health Affairs, the socioeconomic status of patients in any given community may explain some of the variation in hospital 30-day readmission rates. But the quality of the facilities where patients go when they are discharged plays a key role. However, socioeconomic status alone doesn’t explain why hospitals in the poorest communities have slightly higher hospital readmission rates.
Patients leaving hospitals in low-income communities were much more likely to be readmitted after being discharged to inpatient rehabilitation or long-term-care communities compared with patients who went home.
While the opposite was true for those discharged from hospitals in wealthier communities more information is needed to determine which communities are more likely to result in readmission.
The findings raise questions about federal policies penalizing high rates of 30-day readmissions. Medicare began imposing payment cuts for excessive readmissions in October 2012 on the grounds they reflect poor quality of care and cause unnecessary healthcare costs.
Studies have suggested that the burden is higher among safety net hospitals or facilities that predominantly serve low-income areas and uninsured patients. Experts are urging review of this policy as these hospitals can face as much as a 6% cut of their base operating budget. A cut in the base budget only stands to increase the possibility of lesser quality care due to less healthcare professionals and resources.
Some have urged that the Government should adjust the readmissions measure for socioeconomic factors which include income, education, primary language and race. But policy changes are premature until there is more research allowing better comparisons, the authors of the study write: “It is not clear that a larger redistribution of penalty dollars would be desirable until the factors that contribute to differences in readmissions are better understood.”
Before choosing any long-term care community for your rehabilitation or skilled nursing needs, look at the community’s 30-day hospital readmission rate. South Coast Post Acute has one of the lowest hospital readmission rates in Orange County. The next time you are looking for a care community, look to South Coast Post Acute.