Award Supports Study of Ways to Lower Repeat Hospitalizations

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by Forest Ray PhD |

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The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute awarded $962,000 to a University of Buffalo researcher to develop risk models that help to improve patient care and lower hospital readmission rates for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

“Each year, 7.8 million hospital-discharged patients are readmitted, costing the United States $17 billion,” David Jacobs, PhD, said in a university press release.

“High readmission rates are linked to several quality of care and patient safety factors, such as medication-related problems, inaccurate information transfer, and lack of care coordination with primary care,” he added.

The Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award will help Jacobs develop a real-time readmission risk prediction algorithm over a five-year period. The project will combine social and clinical information into predictive models, which will then be tested in clinical practice.

If successful, the work will enable doctors to provide personalized treatment and limit hospital readmission by better tackling particular aspects of each patient’s case.

“Our focus will be to apply innovative informatic techniques to the development of risk prediction models for hospital readmissions that ultimately personalizes care management interventions,” Jacobs said.

Past research identified a number of risk factors associated with readmission. These include psychological disorders and other co-occurring medical conditions, as well as patients’ own experiences while hospitalized, such as their interactions with physicians and nurses, pain management, and communication surrounding hospital discharge.

Although such information contributed to previous predictive models, their ability to estimate the risk of hospital readmission, particularly for COPD patients, remains poor, Jacobs said.

He considers a lack of detailed social information among these models’ weaknesses, and plans to gain a better understanding of social risk factors by interviewing patients, their caregivers, and clinicians.

As part of the award, Jacobs will gain access to various resources, as well as guidance from Sanjay Sethi, MD, assistant vice president for health sciences at the University of Buffalo, who will serve as his primary mentor.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about 16 million people are living with COPD in the U.S. Exposure to tobacco smoking is the disorder’s primary cause, accounting for 85–90% of all COPD cases.