Hospital Readmission Rates are Down

New data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicare Services shows that there has been improvement in hospital readmission rates over the last several years. While hospital readmission rates have been steady over the last five years, these new numbers show a small but significant readmission downturn in recent times.

Readmission Numbers

When analyzing this new data, CMS applied a broad focus. Specifically, CMS looked at 30 day readmission rates for Medicare patients without focusing on a specific cause for readmission. In the year of 2012, CMS concluded that Medicare patient readmission rates had fallen from a steady 19 percent over the last five years to 18.4 percent in 2012. This translates to approximately 70,000 less readmissions in 2012 than in previous years. Additionally, when looking specifically at the last quarter of 2012, 30 day readmission rates were down to 17.8 percent, which may suggest a trend of further positive movement.

Reasons for Less Readmission

When releasing these numbers, CMS did not attempt to explain the specific reasons behind a positive trend in readmission rates. Still, there are some theories as to what has caused readmission rates to dip. Jonathan Blum, who is the director of the Center for Medicare believes that reforms in payment and delivery have aided the drop in readmissions.

Additionally, readmission rates may have dropped as a result of a new program aimed at lowering them. This program went into effect on October 1, 2012 as part of the Affordable Care Act. Under this new program, hospitals must lower their readmission rates in critical areas or else face financial penalties. These financial penalties are set to increase each year through 2015, and must no doubt serve as motivation for hospitals to improve their readmission numbers. This new data from the CMS seems to suggest that the penalty program is beginning to have an effect on readmission rates.