Reducing pediatric readmissions has become a national priority; however, the use of readmission rates as a quality metric remains controversial. The goal of this study was to examine short-term stability and long-term changes in hospital readmission rates.
Data from the Pediatric Health Information System were used to compare annual 30-day risk-adjusted readmission rates (RARRs) in 47 U.S. children's hospitals from 2016-2017 (short-term) and 2016-2019 (long-term). Pearson correlation coefficients and weighted Cohen's Kappa statistics were used to measure correlation and agreement across years for hospital-level RARRs and performance quartiles.
Median (IQR) 30-day RARRs remained stable from 7.7% (7.0-8.3) in 2016 to 7.6% (7.0-8.1) in 2019. Individual hospital RARRs in 2016 were strongly correlated with the same hospital's 2017 rate (R=0.89 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.80-0.94]) and moderately correlated with those in 2019 (R=0.49 [95%CI 0.23-0.68]). Short-term RARRs (2016 vs. 2017) were more highly correlated for medical conditions than surgical conditions, but correlations between long-term medical and surgical RARRs (2016 vs. 2019) were similar. Agreement between RARRs was higher when comparing short-term changes (0.73 [95%CI 0.59-0.86]) than long-term changes (0.45 [95%CI 0.27-0.63]). From 2016 to 2019, RARRs increased by ≥1% in 7 (15%) hospitals and decreased by ≥1% in 6 (13%) hospitals. Only 7 (15%) hospitals experienced reductions in RARRs over the short and long-term.
Hospital-level performance on RARRs remained stable with high agreement over the short-term suggesting stability of readmission measures. There was little evidence of sustained improvement in hospital-level performance over multiple years.