Objectives: Hospital readmission rate is currently used as a quality of care indicator, although its validity has not been established. Our aims were to identify the frequency and characteristics of potential avoidable readmissions and to compare the assessment of quality of care derived from readmission rate with other measure of quality (judgment of experts).
Methods: Design: cross-sectional observational study; Setting: acute care hospital located in Marbella, South of Spain; Study participants: random sample of patients readmitted at the hospital within six months from discharge (n=363); Interventions: review of clinical records by a pair of observers to assess the causes of readmissions and their potential avoidability; Main measures: logistic regression analysis to identify the variables from the databases of hospital discharges which are related to avoidability of readmissions. Determination of sensitivity and specificity of different definitions of readmission rate to detect avoidable situations.
Results: Nineteen percent of readmissions were considered potentially avoidable. Variables related to readmission avoidability were (i) time elapsed between index admission and readmission and (ii) difference in diagnoses of both episodes. None of the definitions of readmission rate used in this study provided adequate values of sensitivity and specificity in the identification of potentially avoidable readmissions.
Conclusions: Most readmissions in our hospital were unavoidable. Thus, readmission rate might not be considered a valid indicator of quality of care.