Variation in Condition-Specific Readmission Rates Across US Children's Hospitals

Published:January 22, 2022DOI:



      Despite extensive efforts, overall readmission rates at US children's hospitals have not materially declined over the past decade, raising questions about how to direct future efforts. Using measures of prevalence and performance variation we describe readmission rates by condition and identify priority conditions for future intervention.


      Retrospective cohort study of 49 US children's hospitals in the Pediatric Health Information System in 2017. Conditions were classified using All Patients Refined Diagnosis Related Groups. 30-day unadjusted and risk-adjusted readmission rates were calculated for each hospital/condition using the Pediatric All Cause Readmission measure. We ranked the highest volume conditions by rate variation (RV, interquartile range divided by the median) for each condition across hospitals.


      The sample included 811,434 index hospitalizations with 50,196 (6.2%) 30-day readmissions. The RV across hospitals/conditions was between 0 and 2.8 (median = 0.7). Common reasons for admission had low RVs across hospitals, for example, bronchiolitis (readmission rate = 5.6%, RV = 0.4), seizure (readmission rate = 6.6%, RV = 0.3), and asthma (readmission rate = 3.1%, RV = 0.4). We identified 33 conditions with high variation in readmission rates across hospitals, which accounted for 18% of all discharges and 11% of all pediatric readmissions. These conditions may serve as candidates for future readmission reduction activities.


      Many common childhood conditions have little variation in readmission rates across children's hospitals, suggesting limited future improvement opportunities. Conditions with high rate variation may provide opportunities for quality improvement; however, these conditions account for a relatively small share of total discharges suggesting modest potential impacts on national rates.


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