Healthcare News & Insights

Reducing post-surgical complications may improve readmission rates

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently began penalizing hospitals with high readmission rates. So naturally, as a result, reducing readmissions is at the forefront of many hospital execs’ minds.

Here’s some new info that may help your hospital’s approach to this problem: A new study shows that many readmissions can likely be attributed to post-surgical outcomes.

After examining 60,000 operations at 112 Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals, researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that in one of seven cases, a patient experienced a complication within 30 days of the operation.

The researchers looked at four different types of surgical specialties: gynecology, orthopedics, gastrointestinal and vascular.

Complications examined ranged from vascular problems to various types of infections, including surgical-site, urinary-tract, respiratory and cardiac infections.

While the overall complication rate for all surgeries stood at 15%, GI surgeries in particular had the highest rate of complications at 27.5% with vascular surgeries close behind at 20%. Orthopedic surgeries had a 7% rate of complications. Gynecological surgeries were the lowest of all with a 6.7% rate.

Although patients undergoing gynecological procedures were least likely to develop complications post surgery, the majority of the complications that did develop (80%) happened after being discharged from the hospital.

However, this may be attributed to shorter hospital stays for gynecological surgeries. Post-discharge complications were lower for vascular and orthopedic surgeries (approximately 40% for both), which are typically associated with longer hospital stays.

Areas to focus on for improvement

Improving post-surgical outcomes is not only critical to decreasing readmission rates, it’s also important to reducing healthcare costs, another area where CMS is scrutinizing hospitals.

Researchers suggest hospitals place a greater focus on patient education to decrease the likelihood of complications. Patients should be taught how to recognize early signs that something may be amiss in their recovery and they should be told to seek care immediately to prevent a significant problem from developing.

Tracking these post-discharge complications is also key, researchers noted. For example, some hospitals may not report the rates of surgical-site infection in patients after discharge, which doesn’t capture the whole picture.

Hospitals will only be able to improve patient care if they have accurate data to work with. With this info, hospitals can take various preventive measures, such as increasing hospital stays for patients who may be more likely to develop post-surgical complications.

So if your hospital isn’t keeping tabs on post-surgical complications in patients, now’s the time to start.

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