Objective: To develop a method of identifying patients at high risk of readmission to hospital in the next 12 months for practical use by primary care trusts and general practices in the NHS in England. Data sources: Data from hospital episode statistics showing all admissions in NHS trusts in England over five years, 1999-2000 to 2003-4; data from the 2001 census for England. Population: All residents in England admitted to hospital in the previous four years with a subset of "reference" conditions for which improved management may help to prevent future admissions. Design: Multivariate statistical analysis of routinely collected data to develop an algorithm to predict patients at highest risk of readmission in the next 12 months. The algorithm was developed by using a 10% sample of hospital episode statistics data for all of England for the period indicated. The coefficients for 21 most powerful (and statistically significant) variables were then applied against a second 10% test sample to validate the findings of the algorithm from the first sample. Results: The key factors predicting subsequent admission included age, sex, ethnicity, number of previous admissions, and clinical condition. The algorithm produces a risk score (from 0 to 100) for each patient admitted with a reference condition. At a risk score threshold of 50, the algorithm identified 54.3% of patients admitted with a reference condition who would have an admission in the next 12 months; 34.7% of patients were "flagged" incorrectly (they would not have a subsequent admission). At risk score threshold levels of 70 and 80, the rate of incorrectly "flagged" patients dropped to 22.6% and 15.7%, but the algorithm found a lower percentage of patients who would be readmitted. The algorithm is made freely available to primary care trusts via a website. Conclusions: A method of predicting individual patients at highest risk of readmission to hospital in the next 12 months has been developed, which has a reasonable level of sensitivity and specificity. Using various assumptions a "business case" has been modelled to demonstrate to primary care trusts and practices the potential costs and impact of an intervention using the algorithm to reduce hospital admissions.
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