Patient Care

Most Postoperative Readmissions Due to Patient Factors


Clinical question: What is the etiology of 30-day readmissions in postoperative patients?

Background: As the focus of healthcare changes to a quality-focused model, readmissions impact physicians, reimbursements, and patients. Understanding the cause of readmissions becomes essential to preventing them. The etiology of 30-day readmissions in postoperative patients has not specifically been studied.

Study design: Retrospective analysis.

Setting: Academic tertiary-care center.

Synopsis: Using administrative claims data, an analysis of 22,559 patients who underwent a major surgical procedure between 2009 and 2013 was performed. A total of 56 surgeons within eight surgical subspecialties were analyzed, showing that variation in 30-day readmissions was largely due to patient-specific factors (82.8%) while only a minority were attributable to surgical subspecialty (14.5%) and individual surgeon levels (2.8%). Factors associated with readmission included race/ethnicity, comorbidities, postoperative complications, and extended length of stay.

Further studies within this area will need to be conducted focusing on one specific subspecialty and one surgeon to exclude confounding factors. Additional meta-analysis can then compare these individual studies. A larger population and multiple care centers will also further validate the findings. Understanding the cause of the readmissions in postoperative patients can prevent further readmissions, improve quality of care, and decrease healthcare costs. If patient factors are identified as a major cause for readmissions in postoperative patients, changes in preoperative management may need to be made.

Bottom line: Postoperative readmissions are more dependent on patient factors than surgeon- or surgical subspecialty-specific factors.

Citation: Gani F, Lucas DJ, Kim Y, Schneider EB, Pawlik TM. Understanding variation in 30-day surgical readmission in the era of accountable care: effect of the patient, surgeon, and surgical subspecialties. JAMA Surg. 2015;150(11):1042-1049.

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