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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU: Hospital Readmissions Penalties Have Intended Effects

A federal policy that penalizes hospitals for high rates of readmitting patients who have been treated for heart attacks, heart failure, or pneumonia has led to a decrease in 30-day readmissions not just for those conditions, but for others, a new study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) shows.

“Medicare 30-day readmissions fell for the three conditions targeted by the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, consistent with the goals of the program,” said the study, published in the journal Health Affairs and led by Dr. Kathleen Carey, a professor of health policy and management at BUSPH.

In addition, the study found a “substantial fall in readmissions” for other conditions, which the authors called a “spillover effect” from the federal policy.

The study of hospitals in New York State did not find any significant “unintended effects” from the implementation of the financial penalties, which are assessed on hospitals that have high rates of readmitting patients who have been discharged after treatment for heart attacks, heart failure, or pneumonia. But it did find a “significant growth in admissions” of discharged patients to both hospital emergency departments and so-called “observation” beds, which are not considered inpatient readmissions.

Still, the findings “suggest that the program is impacting hospitals in the direction intended by the ACA [Affordable Care Act],” and found no evidence that it is influencing hospital decisions in a way that might raise concerns about patient care, said Dr. Carey and co-author Dr. Meng-Yun Lin, a research analyst at Boston Medical Center.

To read more about the study, go to: