Higher satisfaction in care, communication reduces readmission rate

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Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers have found patients admitted to the hospital are less likely to be readmitted in 30 days if they report higher levels of satisfaction in care and communication with providers, according to a study published in BMJ Quality & Safety.

Hospital readmissions, which cost $8.25 billion a year, can often be preventable. In this study, researchers evaluated the correlation between patient satisfaction and communication quality and readmission rates.

"These findings suggest that engaging patients in an assessment of communication quality, unmet needs, concerns and overall experience during their hospital stay may help identify issues that have not been captured in standard, post-discharge surveys that are conducted when an opportune time for quality improvement interventions has passed," said lead author Jocelyn Carter, MD, of the MGH Department of Medicine.

Researchers interviewed patients being discharged from the hospital from 2012 to 2015 with questionaries covering thoughts on physical and mental health, satisfaction with care, confidence in caring for themselves and if they thought they would be readmitted within a month. Overall, 201 of the 846 patients (23.8 percent) were readmitted within 30 days.

Results showed patients who reported higher satisfaction were 39 percent less likely to be readmitted compared to unsatisfied patients. Additionally, patients who believed physicians listened to them were 32 percent less likely to be readmitted.

"Surprisingly, there was no increased likelihood of readmission associated with specific levels of insurance, but that may be related to the universal health insurance coverage in Massachusetts during those years,” concluded Carter. “We also found that patients over the age of 45 were more likely to be readmitted than younger patients, while previous studies have found increased risk only in those over 65. The fact that our study was conducted in units caring for patients with complex health needs could affect risk across all age categories. Now additional research is needed to examine how these data can help prospectively identify those at increased risk for readmission."