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Objective: Although recent studies have shown that 30-day readmissions following sepsis are common, the overall fiscal impact of these rehospitalizations and their variability between hospitals relative to other high-risk conditions, such as congestive heart failure and acute myocardial infarction, are unknown. The objectives of this study were to characterize the frequency, cost, patient-level risk factors, and hospital-level variation in 30-day readmissions following sepsis compared with congestive heart failure and acute myocardial infarction.

Design: A retrospective cohort analysis of hospitalizations from 2009 to 2011.

Setting: All acute care, nonfederal hospitals in California.

Patients: Hospitalizations for sepsis (n = 240,198), congestive heart failure (n = 193,153), and acute myocardial infarction (n = 105,684) identified by administrative discharge codes.

Interventions: None.

Measurements and Main Results: The primary outcomes were the frequency and cost of all-cause 30-day readmissions following hospitalization for sepsis compared with congestive heart failure and acute myocardial infarction. Variability in predicted readmission rates between hospitals was calculated using mixed-effects logistic regression analysis. The all-cause 30-day readmission rates were 20.4%, 23.6%, and 17.7% for sepsis, congestive heart failure, and acute myocardial infarction, respectively. The estimated annual costs of 30-day readmissions in the state of California during the study period were $500 million/yr for sepsis, $229 million/yr for congestive heart failure, and $142 million/yr for acute myocardial infarction. The risk- and reliability-adjusted readmission rates across hospitals ranged from 11.0% to 39.8% (median, 19.9%; interquartile range, 16.1-26.0%) for sepsis, 11.3% to 38.4% (median, 22.9%; interquartile range, 19.2-26.6%) for congestive heart failure, and 3.6% to 40.8% (median, 17.0%; interquartile range, 12.2-20.0%) for acute myocardial infarction. Patient-level factors associated with higher odds of 30-day readmission following sepsis included younger age, male gender, Black or Native American race, a higher burden of medical comorbidities, urban residence, and lower income.

Conclusion: Sepsis is a leading contributor to excess healthcare costs due to hospital readmissions. Interventions at clinical and policy levels should prioritize identifying effective strategies to reduce sepsis readmissions.

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