Are we targeting the right metric for heart failure? Comparison of hospital 30-day readmission rates and total episode of care inpatient days.
BACKGROUND: Hospitals are challenged to reduce length of stay (LOS), yet simultaneously reduce readmissions for patients with heart failure (HF). This study investigates whether 30-day rehospitalization or an alternative measure of total inpatient days over an episode of care (EOC) is the best indicator of resource use, HF quality, and outcomes. METHODS: Using data from the American Heart Association's Get With The Guidelines-Heart Failure Registry linked to Medicare claims, we ranked and compared hospitals by LOS, 30-day readmission rate, and overall EOC metric, defined as all hospital days for an HF admission and any subsequent admissions within 30 days. We divided hospitals into quartiles by 30-day EOC and 30-day readmission rates. We compared performance by EOC and readmission rate quartiles with respect to quality of care indicators and 30-day postdischarge mortality. RESULTS: The population had a mean age of 80 ± 7.95 years, 45% were male, and 82% were white. Hospital-level unadjusted median index LOS and overall EOC were 4.9 (4.2-5.6) and 6.2 (5.3-7.4) days, respectively. Median 30-day readmission rate was 23.2%. Hospital HF readmission rate was not associated with initial hospital LOS, only slightly associated with total EOC rank (r = 0.26, P = .001), and inversely related to HF performance measures. After adjustment, there was no association between 30-day readmission and decreased 30-day mortality. In contrast, better performance on the EOC metric was associated with decreased odds of 30-day mortality. CONCLUSIONS: Although hospital 30-day readmission rate was poorly correlated with LOS, quality measures, and 30-day mortality, better performance on the EOC metric was associated with better 30-day survival. Total inpatient days during a 30-day EOC may more accurately reflect overall resource use and better serve as a target for quality improvement efforts.
Kociol, RD; Liang, L; Hernandez, AF; Curtis, LH; Heidenreich, PA; Yancy, CW; Fonarow, GC; Peterson, ED
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