More family practitioners in the community lowers hospital re-admissions rate, but the same isn't true for more internists, according to a report from American Family Physician.
The report, a one-page policy paper that appeared on the website for the American Academy of Family Physicians, states that combined readmissions for pneumonia, heart attack, and heart failure in 2005 account for 15.7% of all readmissions in 2005. Medicare spent $533 million, $136 million and $590 million, respectively, for these conditions.
Adding one family practitioner per 1,000 population reduces for the three conditions by 7%, 5%, and 8%, respectively. An estimated 46 more family practitioners per 100,000 population, a level the AAFP recommended last year, could reduce readmission costs by $81 million per year. Another 100 family practitioners per 100,000 population could reduce costs by $579 million per year.
Health care reform goals enacted last year seek to decrease in hospital readmissions to save $710 million annually. Another 100 family practitioners per 100,000 population would achieve 83% of that goal, the policy paper states.
Researchers derived their figures from two U.S. Department of Health and Human Services databases, the Medicare Hospital Compare Database, which includes readmission rates for pneumonia, heart attack and heart failure for 4,459 hospitals, and from the Area Resource File, which contains data for physicians per population at the county level.
Data show that 30-day readmission rates for the three diagnoses decrease as the number of family practitioners increases, but also that increased numbers of physicians in all other major specialties, including general internal medicine, is associated with increased risk of readmission, the report stated.