Study: Quality improvement initiatives reduce readmissions, but may not save money

While quality improvement initiatives to reduce readmissions at various health systems have proved successful, these interventions may not always result in fiscal savings, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.


For the study, researchers conducted a review of 50 quality improvement studies, involving data on more than 16,700 patients. Analysis revealed quality improvement initiatives resulted in a 12.1 percent average reduction in readmissions for heart failure patients and a 6.3 percent readmission reduction among older adults with various health conditions.

While researchers determined the average net savings for health systems per heart failure patient to be approximately $972, they were also able to attribute an average net loss of $169 per person treated for other health issues. Net costs varied so widely across the studies that researchers could not conclusively determine whether or not the initiatives were collectively cost-saving. However, interventions designed to engage the patient and caregiver proved to be the most fiscally beneficial.

"Hospitalization is very expensive, so avoiding even a few readmissions should have saved a lot of money," said Terry Nuckols, MD, an assistant clinical professor with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and the study's lead author. "Our findings suggest that there is no guarantee of net cost savings once the implementation costs associated with efforts to prevent readmissions are considered."

More articles on quality: 
OSHA investigates Minnesota hospital's ED in wake of patient sexual assault 
How a newly licensed nurse saved a life at 39,000 feet 
A 3-protocol program reduces delirium, hospital stay for older surgery patients

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