A five-year study performed by researchers from the Yale School of Public Health has found that while many hospitals have successfully reduced the rate of readmission for their Medicare patients, few specific strategies have emerged as best practices for tackling this challenge.

commonwealth fundIn fact, only one strategy appears to be universally effective: discharging patients with their follow-up appointments already made.

Beyond that, researchers found that hospitals lowered their readmission rates by employing a number of tools and that most successful hospitals employed at least three such tools – although which tools they employed differed and more tools did not produce better results.

Hospitals have been working to lower their readmissions in response to Medicare’s hospital readmissions reduction program, which imposes financial penalties for hospitals that readmit “too many” of their Medicare patients.

The study’s conclusion:

Hospital readmission rates result from the confluence of diverse patient, provider, and organizational factors. Despite a wide range of hospitals and five years of study, we found little evidence that specific strategies conferred improvements across hospitals, aside from booking follow-up appointments before discharge. Rather, adopting at least three strategies, tailoring implementation efforts to local circumstances, and persistence over time seemed to be keys to success.

Find the Yale study “National Campaigns to Reduce Readmissions: What Have We Learned?” here, on the web site of the Commonwealth Fund, which underwrote the research.