Healthcare Delivery, Quality, and Safety| Volume 287, P107-116, July 2023

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Hospital Performance on Failure to Rescue Correlates With Likelihood of Home Discharge

  • Audrey Stevens
    Corresponding author. UT Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Blvd, Dallas, TX 75390.
    Department of Surgery, University of Texas Southwestern, Dallas, Texas

    VA North Texas Healthcare System, Dallas, Texas

    Surgical Center for Outcomes, Implementation, and Novel Interventions (S-COIN), Dallas, Texas
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  • Jennie Meier
    Department of Surgery, University of Texas Southwestern, Dallas, Texas

    VA North Texas Healthcare System, Dallas, Texas

    Surgical Center for Outcomes, Implementation, and Novel Interventions (S-COIN), Dallas, Texas
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  • Archana Bhat
    Department of Surgery, University of Texas Southwestern, Dallas, Texas

    VA North Texas Healthcare System, Dallas, Texas

    Surgical Center for Outcomes, Implementation, and Novel Interventions (S-COIN), Dallas, Texas
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  • Courtney Balentine
    Department of Surgery, University of Texas Southwestern, Dallas, Texas

    VA North Texas Healthcare System, Dallas, Texas

    Surgical Center for Outcomes, Implementation, and Novel Interventions (S-COIN), Dallas, Texas
    Search for articles by this author
Published:March 07, 2023DOI:



      Failure to rescue (FTR) (avoiding death after complications) has been proposed as a measure of hospital quality. Although surviving complications is important, not all rescues are created equal. Patients also place considerable values on being able to return home after surgery and resume their normal lives. From a systems standpoint, nonhome discharge to skilled nursing and other facilities is the biggest driver of Medicare costs. We wanted to determine whether hospitals’ ability to keep patients alive after complications was associated with higher rates of home discharge. We hypothesized that hospitals with higher rescue rates would also be more likely to discharge patients home after surgery.


      We conducted a retrospective cohort study using the nationwide inpatient sample. We included 1,358,041 patients ≥18 y old who had elective major surgery (general, vascular, orthopedic) at 3818 hospitals from 2013 to 2017. We predicted the correlation between a hospital's performance (rank) on FTR and its rank in terms of home discharge rate.


      The cohort had a median age of 66 y (interquartile range [IQR] 58-73), and 77.9% of patients were Caucasian. Most patients (63.6%) were treated at urban teaching institutions. The surgical case mix included patients having colorectal (146,993 patients; 10.8%), pulmonary (52,334; 3.9%), pancreatic (13,635; 1.0%), hepatic (14,821; 1.1%), gastric (9182; 0.7%), esophageal (4494; 0.3%), peripheral vascular bypass (29,196; 2.2%), abdominal aneurysm repair (14,327; 1.1%), coronary artery bypass (61,976; 4.6%), hip replacement (356,400; 26.2%), and knee replacement (654,857; 48.2%) operations. The overall mortality was 0.3%, the average hospital complication rate was 15.9%, the median hospital rescue rate was 99% (IQR 70%-100%), and the median hospital rate of home discharge was 80% (IQR 74%-85%).There was a small but positive correlation between hospitals’ performance on the FTR metric and the likelihood of home discharge after surgery (r = 0.0453; P = 0.006). When considering hospital rates of discharge to home following a postoperative complication, there was a similar correlation between rescue rates and probability of home discharge (r = 0.0963; P < 0.001). However, on sensitivity analysis excluding orthopedic surgery, there was a stronger correlation between rescue rates and home discharge rate (r = 0.4047, P < 0.001).


      We found a small correlation between a hospital's ability to rescue patients from complication and that hospital's likelihood of discharging patients home after surgery. When excluding orthopedic operations from the analysis, this correlation strengthened. Our findings suggest that efforts to reduce mortality after complications will likely also help patients return home more frequently after complex surgery. However, more work needs to be done to identify successful programs and other patient and hospital factors that affect both rescue and home discharge.


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