Original Research

Examining the Utility of 30-day Readmission Rates and Hospital Profiling in the Veterans Health Administration


BACKGROUND: The Veterans Health Administration (VA) reports hospital-specific 30-day risk-standardized readmission rates (RSRRs) using CMS-derived models.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to examine and describe the interfacility variability of 30-day RSRRs for acute myocardial infarction (AMI), heart failure (HF), and pneumonia as a means to assess its utility for VA quality improvement and hospital comparison.

RESEARCH DESIGN: A retrospective analysis of VA and Medicare claims data using one-year (2012) and three-year (2010-2012) data given their use for quality improvement or for hospital comparison, respectively.

SUBJECTS: This study included 3,571 patients hospitalized for AMI at 56 hospitals, 10,609 patients hospitalized for HF at 102 hospitals, and 10,191 patients hospitalized for pneumonia at 106 hospitals.

MEASURES: Hospital-specific 30-day RSRRs for AMI, HF, and pneumonia hospitalizations were calculated using hierarchical generalized linear models.

RESULTS: Of 164 qualifying VA hospitals, 56 (34%), 102 (62%), and 106 (64%) qualified for analysis based on CMS criteria for AMI, HF, and pneumonia cohorts, respectively. Using 2012 data, we found that two hospitals (2%) had CHF RSRRs worse than the national average (+95% CI), whereas no hospital demonstrated worse-than-average risk-stratified readmission Rate (RSRR; +95% CI) for AMI or pneumonia. After increasing the number of facility admissions by combining three years of data, we found that four (range: 3.5%-5.3%) hospitals had RSRRs worse than the national average (+95% CI) for all three conditions.

CONCLUSIONS: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services-derived 30-day readmission measure may not be a useful measure to distinguish VA interfacility performance or drive quality improvement given the low facility-level volume of such readmissions.

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