Kenneth Ottenbacher A research team at UTMB has received a grant of nearly $1 million from the National Institutes of Health to study why some patients are more likely to be readmitted to a hospital shortly after they are discharged.

Readmission rates have received recent attention as an indicator of hospital quality and a factor that if managed differently could help reduce costs in programs like Medicare.

The Affordable Care Act includes a hospital readmission reduction program intended to assist hospitals with patient transitions from acute care to their home or community. Previous research has found that approximately 20 percent of the people covered by Medicare who are hospitalized each year are readmitted within 30 days of leaving the hospital. The cost associated with early readmissions is estimated at more than $17 billion annually with the majority of these rehospitalizations considered preventable.
 
Current research examining hospital readmission focuses primarily on patients receiving services in acute care hospitals, said Kenneth Ottenbacher, professor of Rehabilitation Sciences in UTMB’s School of Health Professions and associate director of the Sealy Center on Aging. He noted that the occurrence of unplanned readmissions among high-cost patients, such as the elderly and those with injury or disability who receive services in post-acute care settings is also a significant concern, but has received less attention. 
 
The research team, led by Ottenbacher and involving investigators at the University at Buffalo in New York, will examine readmissions for high-volume, high-cost patients (for example stroke, hip fracture and brain injury patients) who receive post-acute inpatient rehabilitation services.
 
“Our goal is to determine rates and factors associated with hospital readmissions in people receiving inpatient rehabilitation services for the six largest rehabilitation impairment groups as defined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services,” said Ottenbacher. 
 
The team will use data from the Medicare program and link this data with information from the Uniform Data System for Medical Rehabilitation, located at the University at Buffalo. The goal, said Ottenbacher, is to identify information that can be used to improve discharge planning and provide effective monitoring and intervention so that people who are hospitalized don’t end up back in the hospital within a few days or weeks following their release back to the community.