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Why Hospital Readmissions Sometimes Occur

Results from a new national study reveal an excessive number of hospital readmissions for Medicare patients. A team of researchers from The Dartmouth Institute have been working together on a five-year study about post hospital care and they see the causes for readmissions completely avoidable with proper post hospital care. This study, called the Dartmouth Atlas Project, shows that nearly twenty percent of hospitalized Medicare patients are readmitted to the hospital within thirty days of their discharge. The cost of avoidable hospital readmissions is estimated to exceed $17 billion annually, a number we all wish to reduce.

man with broken arm adds to hospital readmissionsWhat are the reasons that hospital readmissions sometimes occur? Sometimes the readmission of a patient is unavoidable but as the Dartmouth Atlas Project shows, many times hospital readmission is due to the serious shortcomings of conventional post hospital care. Dr. David C. Goodman, M.D., M.S., who is the principal investigator for the Dartmouth Atlas Project, calls these shortcomings “widespread and systematic failures in coordinating care for patients after they leave the hospital.”


We can identify many reasons that post hospital care is so common. Preventing hospital readmission is the responsibility of both the hospital–at a systemic and practical level–as well as the patient and their family and caretakers. One of the best things you can do as a post hospital patient to prevent hospital readmission is to make–and keep–appointments with your doctor. Failure to schedule a follow-up appointment is one of the top reasons for hospital readmission, and The Dartmouth Atlas Project shows that more than half of Medicare patients go at least two weeks after being discharged before seeing their doctor.

Some of the other more common causes for hospital readmission are patient confusion about illness, patient confusion about medication, hospital failure to fully educate the patient about his or her condition, and patient care given by an ill- or uninformed family member.

The best thing you can do to prevent hospital readmission is to employ the help of a post-hospitalist care specialist. When your family works with a team of experienced doctors and nurse practitioners from a post-hospitalist organization, patients have the opportunity to greatly reduce their chance of hospital readmission by establishing regular, ongoing care in long-term acute care hospitals, sub-acute units, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities.

Companies like General Medicine, The Post-Hospitalist Company, specialize in improving the post-acute care environment, and have been working to reduce the rate of hospital readmissions for over twenty years, and have the knowledge and expertise to combat hospital readmission of your loved one.