Background: Efforts to reduce hospital readmissions include post-discharge interventions related to the illness treated during the index hospitalization (IH). These efforts may be inadequate because readmissions are precipitated by a wide range of health conditions unrelated to the primary diagnosis of the IH. Objective: To investigate the relationship between post-discharge health services utilization for the same or a different diagnosis than the IH and unplanned 30-day readmission. Design and Participants: The study sample included 583,199 all-cause IHs among 2014 Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries. For all-cause IH, as well as individually for heart failure, myocardial infarction, and pneumonia IH, we used multivariable logistic regressions to investigate the association between post-discharge services utilization and readmission. Main Measures: The outcome was unplanned 30-day readmission. Primary independent variables were post-discharge services utilization, including institutional outpatient, office-based primary care, office-based specialist, office-based non-physician practitioner, emergency department, home health care, and skilled nursing facility providers. Key Results: Among all-cause IH, 11.7% resulted in unplanned 30-day readmissions, and only 18.1% of readmissions occurred for the same primary diagnosis as IH. A substantial majority of post-discharge health services were utilized for a primary diagnosis differing from IH. Compared with no visit, institutional outpatient visits for the same primary diagnosis as IH (odds ratio [OR], 0.33; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.31–0.34) and for a different primary diagnosis than IH (OR, 0.36; 95% CI, 0.35–0.37) were similarly strongly associated with decreased unplanned 30-day readmission. Primary care physician, specialist, non-physician practitioner, and home health care showed similar patterns. IH for heart failure, myocardial infarction, and pneumonia manifested similar patterns to all-cause IH both in terms of post-discharge services utilization and in terms of its impact on readmission. Conclusions: To reduce unplanned 30-day readmission more effectively, discharge planning should include post-discharge services to address health conditions beyond the primary cause of the IH.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1766-1774
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 15 2019


  • 30-day readmission
  • Hospital Readmission Reduction Program
  • all-cause index hospitalization
  • post-discharge services utilization
  • service diagnosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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