Every state but 1 lowered hospital readmissions since 2010, CMS data shows

Between 2010 and 2015, national readmission rates fell 8 percent, thanks in part to the implementation of the Hospital Readmission Reduction Program and other CMS-led quality improvement initiatives, according to a Tuesday blog post by two CMS officials.

In fact, Medicare 30-day readmission rates fell in 49 states and Washington, D.C., from 2010 to 2015. Only Vermont saw readmissions increase during that time period, albeit readmission rates in the state rose less than 1 percent (0.7 percent).

Many states made great strides in readmission rate reduction, as 43 states saw readmission rates fall by more than 5 percent, and 11 states saw a greater than 10 percent reduction.

Hawaii saw the largest fall, tallying a 13.4 percent reduction in readmissions since 2010.

These reductions mean Medicare beneficiaries have avoided roughly 565,000 readmissions since 2010, according to CMS estimates.

See a state-by-state breakdown of readmission reduction from 2010 to 2015 here.

CMS focuses on reducing 30-day readmissions because they are costly — they account for $17 billion in Medicare spending each year, according to the blog post — and "they are often a sign of poor quality care," wrote Patrick Conway, MD, principal deputy administrator and CMO of CMS, and Tim Gronniger, CMS' deputy chief of staff.

"The goal of [readmission reduction] efforts is to spend our healthcare dollars more wisely to promote better care for Medicare beneficiaries and other Americans across the country," the blog post reads.

However, a study published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine this month found hospitals with higher readmission rates are more likely to have lower mortality scores for heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and stroke patients. The study's author said, "Using readmission rates as a measure of hospital quality is inherently problematic. High readmission rates could stem from the legitimate need to care for chronically ill patients in high-intensity settings."

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