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Report (OEI-06-11-00040)

Medicare Nursing Home Resident Hospitalization Rates Merit Additional Monitoring

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Nursing homes hospitalize residents when physicians and nursing staff determine that residents require acute-level care. Such transfers to hospitals provide residents with access to needed acute-care services. However, hospitalizations are costly to Medicare, and research indicates that transfers between settings increase the risk of residents' experiencing harm and other negative care outcomes. High rates of hospitalizations by individual nursing homes could signal quality problems within those homes.


We used administrative and billing data both for nursing homes and hospitals to identify all Medicare residents in Medicare- or Medicaid-certified nursing homes who experienced hospitalizations-i.e., transfers to hospitals for inpatient stays-in fiscal year (FY) 2011. We included all Medicare nursing home residents-those in Medicare-paid skilled nursing and rehabilitative (referred to as "SNF") stays and those in nursing home stays not paid for by Medicare, which include long-term care (LTC) stays-in our analysis. We calculated the percentage of Medicare nursing home residents that each nursing home hospitalized. We identified the diagnoses associated with these hospitalizations, calculated Medicare reimbursements for the hospital stays, and calculated the rates and costs of hospitalizations of nursing home residents. We also examined the extent to which annual rates of resident hospitalizations varied among individual nursing homes.


In FY 2011, nursing homes transferred one quarter of their Medicare residents to hospitals for inpatient admissions, and Medicare spent $14.3 billion on these hospitalizations. Nursing home residents went to hospitals for a wide range of conditions, with septicemia the most common. Annual rates of Medicare resident hospitalizations varied widely across nursing homes. Nursing homes with the following characteristics had the highest annual rates of resident hospitalizations: homes located in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, or Oklahoma and homes with one, two, or three stars in the CMS Five-Star Quality Rating System.


In its comments on the draft report, CMS concurred with both of our recommendations to: (1) develop a quality measure that describes nursing home resident hospitalization rates and (2) instruct State survey agencies to review the proposed quality measure as part of the survey and certification process.

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