Opinions on the Hospital Readmission Reduction Program: results of a national survey of hospital leaders

Karen E Joynt, Jose E Figueroa, John Oray, Ashish K Jha
American Journal of Managed Care 2016 August 1, 22 (8): e287-94

OBJECTIVES: To determine the opinions of US hospital leadership on the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP), a national mandatory penalty-for-performance program.

STUDY DESIGN: We developed a survey about federal readmission policies. We used a stratified sampling design to oversample hospitals in the highest and lowest quintile of performance on readmissions, and hospitals serving a high proportion of minority patients.

METHODS: We surveyed leadership at 1600 US acute care hospitals that were subject to the HRRP, and achieved a 62% response rate. Results were stratified by the size of the HRRP penalty that hospitals received in 2013, and adjusted for nonresponse and sampling strategy.

RESULTS: Compared with 36.1% for public reporting of readmission rates and 23.7% for public reporting of discharge processes, 65.8% of respondents reported that the HRRP had a "great impact" on efforts to reduce readmissions. The most common critique of the HRRP penalty was that it did not adequately account for differences in socioeconomic status between hospitals (75.8% "agree" or "agree strongly"); other concerns included that the penalties were "much too large" (67.7%), and hospitals' inability to impact patient adherence (64.1%). These sentiments were each more common in leaders of hospitals with higher HRRP penalties.

CONCLUSIONS: The HRRP has had a major impact on hospital leaders' efforts to reduce readmission rates, which has implications for the design of future quality improvement programs. However, leaders are concerned about the size of the penalties, lack of adjustment for socioeconomic and clinical factors, and hospitals' inability to impact patient adherence and postacute care. These concerns may have implications as policy makers consider changes to the HRRP, as well as to other Medicare value-based payment programs that contain similar readmission metrics.

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