Question Is connection to primary care within 7 days of hospital discharge associated with reduced readmissions?
Findings In this cohort study of 1531 hospital discharges among adult Medicaid patients in Camden, New Jersey, patients attending a primary care follow-up appointment as part of the 7-Day Pledge program had fewer 30- and 90-day readmissions compared with patients with less timely primary care follow-up or none.
Meaning The findings suggest that facilitated connection of patients to primary care within 7 days of hospital discharge is associated with fewer hospital readmissions.
Importance Previous research suggests the important role of timely primary care follow-up in reducing hospital readmissions, although effectiveness varies by program design and patients’ readmission risk level.
Objective To evaluate the outcomes of the 7-Day Pledge program to reduce readmissions by increasing access to timely primary care appointments after hospitalization.
Design, Setting, and Participants Retrospective cohort study of hospital readmissions among Medicaid patients 18 years or older hospitalized from January 1, 2014, to April 30, 2016, in Camden, New Jersey. To assess each patient’s hospital use before and after hospital discharge, all-payer claims data from 4 health care systems were linked to insurers’ lists of patients assigned to Camden-based primary care practices. A total of 1531 records were categorized by timing of a primary care appointment after discharge. Discharges followed by a primary care appointment within 7 days (treatment group) were matched by propensity scores to those with less timely or no primary care follow-up (nontreatment pool).
Interventions Targeted patient enrollment during hospital admission, primary care practice engagement, patient incentives to overcome barriers to keeping an appointment, and reimbursements to practices for prioritizing patients recently discharged from the hospital.
Main Outcomes and Measures The primary outcome was the number of hospital discharges followed by a readmission within 30 days. The secondary outcome was the number of hospital discharges followed by a readmission within 90 days.
Results There were 2580 hospitalizations of patients 18 years and older included on the patient lists from January 1, 2014, to April 30, 2016. Of these, 1531 records categorized by timing of a primary care appointment after discharge were studied. The treatment group consisted of 450 discharged patients (mean [SD] age, 48.7 [14.7] years; 289 [64.2%] female; 203 [45.1%] black, non-Hispanic). The nontreatment pool consisted of 1081 discharged patients (mean [SD] age, 48.1 [14.9] years; 599 [55.4%] female; 526 [48.7%] black, non-Hispanic). Among this cohort, the number of discharges followed by any readmission was lower for patients with a primary care visit within 7 days of hospital discharge than for their matched referents at 30 days (57 of 450 [12.7%] vs 78.8 of 450 [17.5%]; P = .03) and 90 days (126 of 450 [28.0%] vs 174 of 450 [38.7%]; P = .002) after discharge.
Conclusions and Relevance Facilitated receipt of primary care follow-up within 7 days of hospital discharge was associated with fewer Medicaid readmissions. The findings illuminate the importance of reducing barriers that patients and providers face during care transitions.