Variability in Transitional Care Outcomes Across Hospitals Discharging Veterans to Skilled Nursing Facilities

Abstract [from journal]

Background: The period after transition from hospital to skilled nursing facility (SNF) is high-risk, but variability in outcomes related to transitions across hospitals is not well-known.

Objectives: Evaluate variability in transitional care outcomes across Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and non-VHA hospitals for Veterans, and identify characteristics of high-performing and low-performing hospitals.

Research Design: Retrospective observational study using the 2012-2014 Residential History File, which concatenates VHA, Medicare, and Medicaid data into longitudinal episodes of care for Veterans.

Subjects: Veterans aged 65 or older who were acutely hospitalized in a VHA or non-VHA hospital and discharged to SNF; 1 transition was randomly selected per patient.

Measures: Adverse "transitional care" outcomes were a composite of hospital readmission, Emergency Department visit, or mortality within 7 days of hospital discharge.

Results: Among the 365,942 Veteran transitions from hospital to SNF across 1310 hospitals, the composite outcome rate ranged from 3.3% to 23.2%. In multivariable analysis adjusting for patient characteristics, hospital discharge diagnosis and SNF category, no single hospital characteristic was significantly associated with the 7-day adverse outcomes in either VHA or non-VHA hospitals. Very few high or low-performing hospitals remained in this category across all 3 years. The increased odds of having a 7-day event due to being treated in a low versus high-performing hospital was similar to the odds carried by having an intensive care unit stay during the index admission.

Conclusions: While variability in hospital outcomes is significant, unmeasured care processes may play a larger role than currently measured hospital characteristics in explaining outcomes.