Patient Care

Mortality, Readmission Rates Unchanged by Duty Hour Reforms


Clinical question: Did the 2011 Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) duty hour reforms change mortality rates or readmission rates at teaching hospitals?

Background: The 2011 ACGME duty hour reforms maintained the 80-hour weekly work limit for medical residents, decreased the number of continuous hours to 16 hours from 30 hours for interns, and decreased the number of continuous hours for residents to 24 hours, with an additional four hours allowed for transitions of care. These changes have raised concerns about increased handoffs and potential changes in patient safety.

Study design: Observational study of Medicare admissions before and after duty hour reforms.

Setting: Short-term, acute-care hospitals.

Synopsis: Investigators compared 4,325,854 inpatient Medicare admissions from the two years prior to duty hour reforms with 2,058,419 admissions the year after the reforms. For each time period, the 30-day mortality and 30-day readmission rates were assessed; outcomes from more intensive teaching hospitals were compared with the outcomes from less intensive teaching hospitals. Teaching intensity was assessed according to the resident-to-bed ratio, a measure that has been used in prior research.

No significant differences were found in the primary outcomes of 30-day all-location mortality or 30-day all-cause readmissions.

When looking at specific diagnoses, only stroke was found to have a higher risk of readmission in the post-reform period (OR 1.06, 95% CI 1.01-1.13).

Although 2011 duty hour reforms represented a large, national structural change in resident education, no significant positive or negative effect was found on these important patient safety measures, consistent with what has been found in prior reviews.

Bottom line: The 2011 ACGME duty hour reforms showed no significant changes in mortality or readmissions when comparing hospitals with intensive teaching roles to those with fewer trainees.

Citation: Patel MS, Volpp KG, Small DS, et al. Association of the 2011 ACGME resident duty hour reforms with mortality and readmissions among hospitalized Medicare patients. JAMA. 2014;312(22):2364-2373.

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