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Readmission rate as an indicator of hospital performance: The case of Spain

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 August 2004

Alberto Jiménez-Puente
Costa del Sol Hospital
Javier García-Alegría
Costa del Sol Hospital
Jorge Gómez-Aracena
Costa del Sol Hospital University of Málaga The Nordic School of Public Health
Luis Hidalgo-Rojas
Costa del Sol Hospital
Luisa Lorenzo-Nogueiras
Costa del Sol Hospital
Emilio Perea-Milla-López
Costa del Sol Hospital
Joaquín Fernández-Crehuet-Navajas
Costa del Sol Hospital University of Málaga


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.

© 2004 Cambridge University Press

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