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Readmission to non-index hospital following acute stroke linked to worse outcomes



– Following an acute stroke, optimizing stroke secondary prevention measures, medical complications, and transitions of care is essential to reducing 30-day readmissions and improving patient outcomes, a large analysis of national data showed.

Dr. Laura K. Stein, Icahn School of Medicine, New York Doug Brunk/MDedge News

Dr. Laura K. Stein

“Care that is fragmented with readmissions to other hospitals results not only in more expensive care and longer length of stay but also increased mortality for our acute stroke patients,” lead study author Laura K. Stein, MD, said in an interview in advance of the annual meeting of the American Neurological Association.

In 2017, a study of the Nationwide Readmissions Database demonstrated that 12.1% of patients with acute ischemic stroke were readmitted within 30 days (Stroke 2017;48:1386-8). It cited that 89.6% were unplanned and 12.9% were preventable. “However, this study did not examine whether patients were admitted to the discharging hospital or a different hospital,” said Dr. Stein, a neurologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York. “Furthermore, it did not include metrics such as cost, length of stay, and mortality with 30-day readmissions. Hospitals are increasingly held accountable and penalized for metrics such as length of stay and 30-day readmissions.”

In 2010, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services introduced the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program in an attempt to decrease readmissions following hospitalizations for acute myocardial infarction, heart failure, and pneumonia. “In 2012, CMS started reducing Medicare payments for hospitals with excess readmissions,” said Dr. Stein, who is a fellowship-trained stroke specialist. “While readmission to the same hospital has great implications for hospital systems, any readmission has great implications for patients.”

In what is believed to be the first study of its kind, Dr. Stein and her colleagues drew from the 2013 Nationwide Readmissions Database to examine in-hospital outcomes associated with 30-day readmission to a different hospital for acute ischemic stroke. They used ICD-9 codes to identify index stroke admissions and all-cause readmissions. Outcomes of interest were length of stay, total charges, and in-hospital mortality during the 30-day readmission. The main predictor was readmission to another hospital, compared with readmission to the same hospital as the index acute stroke admission. The researchers used linear regression for the outcomes of length of stay and charges, and logistic regression for in-hospital mortality. They adjusted for several variables during the index admission, including age, sex, vascular risk factors, hospital bed size, teaching hospital status, insurance status, discharge destination, National Center for Health Statistics urban-rural location classification, length of stay, and total charges.

Of 24,545 acute stroke patients readmitted within 30 days, 7,274 (30%) were readmitted to a different hospital. The top three reasons for readmission were acute cerebrovascular disease, septicemia, and renal failure. In fully adjusted models, readmission to a different hospital was associated with an increased length of stay of 0.97 days (P less than .0001) and a mean of $7,677.28 greater total charges, compared with readmission to the same hospital (P less than .0001). The fully adjusted odds ratio for in-hospital mortality during readmission was 1.17 for readmission to another hospital vs. readmission to the same hospital (P = .0079).

“While it is conceivable that cost and length of stay could be higher with readmission to a different hospital because of a need for additional testing with a lack of familiarity with the patient, it is concerning that mortality is higher,” Dr. Stein said. “These findings emphasize the importance of optimizing secondary stroke prevention and medical complications following acute stroke before discharge. Additionally, they emphasize the importance of good transitions of care from the inpatient to outpatient setting (whether that’s to a rehabilitation facility, skilled nursing facility, or home) and accessibility of the discharging stroke team after discharge.”

She acknowledged certain limitations of the analysis, including its reliance of administrative data, which could include misclassification of diagnoses and comorbidities based on ICD-9 codes. “However, we have chosen ICD-9 codes for stroke that have been previously validated in the literature,” Dr. Stein said. “For instance, the validated codes for stroke as the primary discharge diagnosis have a sensitivity of 74%, specificity of 95%, and positive predictive value of 88%. Second, we do not know stroke subtype or severity of stroke. Third, we do not know what the transitions of care plan were when the patients left the hospital following index acute ischemic stroke admission and why these patients ended up being readmitted to a different hospital rather than the one that treated them for their acute stroke.”

The researchers reported having no financial disclosures.

SOURCE: Stein L et al. Ann Neurol. 2018;84[S22]:S149. Abstract M127.

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