Are readmissions to the intensive care unit a useful measure of hospital performance?

G S Cooper, C A Sirio, A J Rotondi, L B Shepardson, G E Rosenthal
Medical Care 1999, 37 (4): 399-408

BACKGROUND: Although patients readmitted to intensive care units (ICUs) typically have poor outcomes, ICU readmission rates have not been studied as a measure of hospital performance.

OBJECTIVES: To determine variation in ICU readmission rates across hospitals and associations of readmission rates with other ICU-based measures of hospital performance.

RESEARCH DESIGN: Observational cohort study.

SUBJECTS: One hundred three thousand nine hundred eighty four consecutive ICU patients who were admitted to twenty eight hospitals who were then transferred to a hospital ward in those 28 hospitals.

MEASURES: Predicted risk of in-hospital death and ICU length of stay (LOS) were determined by a validated method based on age, ICU admission source, diagnosis, comorbidity, and physiologic abnormalities. Severity-adjusted mortality rates, LOS, and readmission rates were determined for each hospital.

RESULTS: One or more ICU readmissions occurred in 5.8% patients who were initially classified as postoperative and in 6.4% patients who were initially classified as nonoperative. In-hospital mortality rate was 24.7% in patients who were readmitted as compared with 4.0% in other patients (P < 0.001). After adjusting for predicted risk of death, the odds of death remained 7.5 times higher (OR 7.5, 95% CI, 6.8-8.3). Readmitted patients also had longer (P < 0.001) ICU LOS (5.2 vs. 3.7 days) and hospital LOS (29.3 vs. 11.7 days). Severity-adjusted readmission rates varied across hospitals from 4.2% to 7.6%. Readmission rates were not correlated with severity-adjusted hospital mortality, ICU LOS, or hospital LOS.

CONCLUSIONS: ICU patients who were subsequently readmitted have a higher risk of death and longer LOS after adjusting for severity of illness. However, readmission rates were not associated with severity-adjusted mortality or LOS. Those data indicate that ICU readmission may capture other aspects of hospital performance and may be complementary to these measures.

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