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Objective

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) has one of the highest hospital readmission rates among chronic conditions. This study was undertaken to identify patient-level, hospital-level, and geographic predictors of 30-day hospital readmissions associated with SLE.

Methods

Using hospital discharge databases from 5 geographically dispersed states, we studied all-cause readmission of SLE patients between 2008 and 2009. We evaluated each hospitalization as a possible index event leading up to a readmission, our primary outcome. We accounted for clustering of hospitalizations within patients and within hospitals and adjusted for hospital case mix. Using multilevel mixed-effects logistic regression, we examined factors associated with 30-day readmission and calculated risk-standardized hospital-level and state-level readmission rates.

Results

We examined 55,936 hospitalizations among 31,903 patients with SLE. Of these hospitalizations, 9,244 (16.5%) resulted in readmission within 30 days. In adjusted analyses, age was inversely related to risk of readmission. African American and Hispanic patients were more likely to be readmitted than white patients, as were those with Medicare or Medicaid insurance (versus private insurance). Several clinical characteristics of lupus, including nephritis, serositis, and thrombocytopenia, were associated with readmission. Readmission rates varied significantly between hospitals after accounting for patient-level clustering and hospital case mix. We also found geographic variation, with risk-adjusted readmission rates lower in New York and higher in Florida as compared to California.

Conclusion

We found that ∼1 in 6 hospitalized patients with SLE were readmitted within 30 days of discharge, with higher rates among historically underserved populations. Significant geographic and hospital-level variation in risk-adjusted readmission rates suggests potential for quality improvement.