HealthDay News — Transition from a condition-specific to a hospital-wide readmission measure would result in a modest increase in the number of hospitals eligible for readmission penalties and would substantially increase penalties for safety-net hospitals, according to a study published online in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Rachael B. Zuckerman, PhD, from the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, DC, and colleagues used Medicare claims from 2011 through 2013 to assess the number of hospitals that were eligible for penalties.

The authors examined the expected effects of changing from the condition-specific readmission measure to a hospital-wide measure on average penalties for safety-net and other hospitals (3443 total hospitals; 688 considered safety-net hospitals). The sample included 6,807,899 and 4,392,658 admissions for the hospital-wide and condition-specific measures, respectively.

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The researchers found that changing to the hospital-wide measure would make 76 more hospitals eligible to receive penalties. Penalties would be increased from .42 ± .01 to .89 ± .01 percent of Medicare base diagnosis-related group payments with the hospital-wide measure. It would also result in an increase in the disparity in penalties between safety-net and other hospitals, from −.03 ± .02 to .41 ± .06 percentage points.

“A transition to a hospital-wide readmission measure would only modestly increase the number of hospitals eligible for penalties and would substantially increase the penalties for safety-net hospitals,” the authors write.

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Zuckerman RB, Joynt Maddox KE, Sheingold SH, Chen LM, Epstein AM. Effect of a hospital-wide measure on the readmissions reduction program. N Engl J Med. 2017;377:1551-1558.