Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Use of medical record linkage to study readmission rates.

British Medical Journal 1989; 299 doi: (Published 16 September 1989) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1989;299:709
  1. J. Henderson,
  2. M. J. Goldacre,
  3. M. J. Graveney,
  4. H. M. Simmons
  1. Unit of Clinical Epidemiology, University of Oxford.


    Readmission rates after inpatient care were studied by using routinely collected data from the Oxford record linkage study for 1968-85. Discharges from hospital and subsequent admissions were identified for people who were both resident and treated in the area covered by the linkage study. Rates were calculated for readmissions within 28 days after discharge from the first, index event. Readmission rates for elective readmissions after elective index admissions rose from 3.5% in 1968 to 7.1% in 1985. Those for elective readmissions after immediate (emergency or accident) index admissions rose from 2.4% to 3.5% during the same period. Emergency readmissions after an immediate index admission rose from 4.0% to 7.0%, and emergency readmissions after an elective index admission rose from 1.3% to 2.5%. All these increases were significant. The rise in elective readmissions may in part reflect a trend towards planned discharge with the expectation of readmission. The rise in emergency readmissions, which has been fairly gradual over many years, may, in some cases, be due to pressure on resources and inappropriately short lengths of stay. Further evidence is required to confirm or refute this. Readmission rates are one of the few potential measures available from routine statistics for assessing outcome, but due consideration must be given to issues of method and interpretation.