Decreasing hospital readmission and patient mortality after hospital dismissal is important when providing quality health care. Interventions recently proposed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to reduce avoidable hospital readmissions include providing patients with clear discharge instructions and appointments for timely follow-up visits. Although research has demonstrated a correlation between follow-up arrangements and reduced hospital readmission in specific patient populations, the effect of hospital follow-up in general medicine patients has not been assessed.
For this study, we reviewed hospital dismissal instructions for general medicine patients dismissed in 2006 from Mayo Clinic hospitals in Rochester, Minnesota (n = 4989), and determined whether specific appointment details for follow-up were documented. Survival analysis and propensity score–adjusted proportional hazards regression models were developed to investigate the association of follow-up appointment arrangements with hospital readmission, emergency department visits, and mortality at 30 and 180 days after discharge.
Of the 4989 dismissal summaries, 3037 (60.9%) contained instructions for a follow-up appointment. No difference was found between those with a documented follow-up appointment vs those without regarding hospital readmission, emergency department visits, or mortality 30 days after dismissal. However, those with a documented follow-up appointment were slightly more likely to have an adverse event (hospital readmission, emergency department visit, or death) within 180 days after dismissal.
Improved discharge processes, including arrangement of hospital follow-up appointments, do not appear to improve readmission rates or survival in general medicine patients. Therefore, national efforts to ensure follow-up for all patients after hospital dismissal may not be beneficial or cost-effective.