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Risk of Readmission Decreased in Patients Who Visit Primary Physician Following Surgery

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The Importance of Doctor Visits Following Surgery

A new study published in JAMA Surgery found some interesting and important results when it comes to post-surgical behaviors in high-risk patients.  Specifically, high-risk patients who followed up with their primary physician following a surgery were less likely to be readmitted to the hospital because of surgical complications the month after their surgery than those high-risk patients who did not follow up.  However, the researchers found that this result was only applicable for those patients who underwent a high-risk procedure and not for those who underwent a lower-risk surgery.  These findings could help doctors to determine which patients would most benefit from post-operative follow up visits.

Researchers Focus on Medicare Patients Who Underwent High-Risk vs. Lower-Risk Surgeries

Researchers involved in the study looked at the records of Medicare patients who underwent thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA), a high-risk procedure and compared them to patients who underwent a lower-risk procedure known as ventral hernia repair (VHR) between 2003 and 2010.  Nearly 37% of the TAA patients experienced post-surgical complications compared to only 8% of the VHR patients.  Early follow-up with a primary physician significantly reduced the likelihood of readmission to the hospital for the TAA patients, while follow-up for the VHR patients made an insignificant impact.  Those TAA patients who saw their primary care physician within 30 days of the procedure had a 20% readmission rate compared to a 35% readmission rate for those TAA patients who did not visit their PCP within 30 days of the surgery.

Better Coordination of Care Between Surgeons and PCPs Important to Patients’ Recovery

The results of the study suggest that better coordination of care between surgeons and PCPs is important to patients’ recovery, particularly those patients who underwent a high-risk surgery.  The better outcomes for some patients may be explained by PCPs observance of medical conditions or complications during surgical follow-ups, which apparently help to reduce readmission to the hospital.  The study also showed encouraging results in movement twoards getting patients who underwent high-risk surgical procedures to go to follow-up appointments with their PCPs: 76% of the patients who underwent TAA surgery saw their PCP.  It is getting at the last 25% of patients who aren’t going to follow-up appointments that will be the next goal.