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Assessing the Impact of Nurse Post-Discharge Telephone Calls on 30-Day Hospital Readmission Rates



Several care transition interventions propose that post-discharge phone calls can reduce adverse events and decrease costly return visits to the hospital. However, given the multi-faceted nature of most care transitions interventions, the true relationship between post-discharge phone calls and readmissions in a real world setting is uncertain.


To determine the effect of receiving a post-discharge telephone call on all-cause 30-day readmission in a general medicine population.


Retrospective observational study.


Patients discharged home from the Medicine Service at a tertiary care academic medical center between November 2010 and May 2012.


Patients received two telephone call attempts by a nurse within 72 h of discharge. Nurses followed a standard script to address issues associated with readmission.

Main outcome and measures

Billing data captured readmissions. We used logistic regression-adjusted patient and clinical covariates as well as a propensity score representing likelihood of being called to determine the association between call receipt and risk for readmission.

Key results

There were 5,507 eligible patients. In unadjusted analyses, patients who received a call and completed the intervention were significantly less likely to be readmitted compared to those who did not [155 (5.8 %) vs 123 (8.6 %), p < 0.01]. In multivariable models adjusting for socio-demographic and clinical covariates alone, completing a post-discharge telephone call intervention was associated with lower odds for readmission (AOR 0.71; 95 % CI: 0.55-0.91). However, when models adjusted for the likelihood of receiving the phone call using the propensity score, no association between call receipt and readmission was observed (AOR 0.91; 95%CI: 0.69-1.20).


Effectiveness of post-discharge phone call programs may be more related to whether patients are able to answer a phone call than to the care delivered by the phone call. Programs would benefit from improving their ability to perform phone outreach while simultaneously improving on the care delivered during the calls.

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