Researching Hospital Readmission Rates

Published on 22 July 2014

Some of the biggest questions in health care are being researched at St. Louis College of Pharmacy. One of those critical issues is reducing hospital readmission rates. While the topic remains a key aspect of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the methods to reduce those rates are a complicated puzzle.

Laura Challen, Pharm.D., BCPS, MBA, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, along with Christine Kelso ’00/’01, Pharm.D., BCPS, AE-C, and Bhumi Gandhi ’14, Pharm.D., undertook a study to help provide one potential answer.

They wanted to find out whether or not having prescription drug benefit, either through a private company or the government, affected the patient’s hospital readmission rates.

They found prescription drug benefits had no effect on readmission rates, although they did see that those with the insurance were admitted slightly more often than those without. The team also discovered that patients without prescription benefits went to the hospital less than those with benefits, but when the uninsured went to the hospital, they tended to be admitted for longer periods of time. The results surprised Challen.

“It was not what we had anticipated,” she says. “I went into this thinking that patients who are without insurance are readmitted more often.”

The results of their study were published in the May 2014 issue of the journal Hospital Pharmacy. Challen says a study like this has not been done before.

“We can now see that the type of prescription benefit you have doesn’t influence readmission rates,” Challen says. “I think the results of our work will help other researchers focus on different questions surrounding the readmission issue.”

"This was a question I was interested in for several years,” Kelso adds. “I think our results lead to some interesting theories about whether or not uninsured patients wait longer to go to hospitals and end up sicker, and how much of that delay can be attributed to access to medications versus other factors."

Gandhi was a student at the College while the research was underway. Challen says Gandhi was involved in the project from its inception, and participated in everything from data analysis to manuscript review. She also co-presented a poster for the 2013 American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP) annual meeting.

“The topic seemed so interesting I couldn’t say no,” Gandhi says. “We were one of the few projects focused on ambulatory pharmacy presenting at ACCP, so we received a lot of attention.”

Gandhi is now in a year-long residency at a community pharmacy in St. Louis with faculty preceptor Clark Kebodeaux, Pharm.D., BCACP.

“It seems like everything is really well connected,” she adds. “I would encourage other students to actively participate in a research project. It helped to shape my career.”

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