Emergency readmissions to paediatric surgery and urology: The impact of inappropriate coding

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INTRODUCTIONIn England, emergency readmissions within 30 days of hospital discharge after an elective admission are not reimbursed if they do not meet Payment by Results (PbR) exclusion criteria. However, coding errors could inappropriately penalise hospitals. We aimed to assess the accuracy of coding for emergency readmissions.METHODSEmergency readmissions attributed to paediatric surgery and urology between September 2012 and August 2014 to our tertiary referral centre were retrospectively reviewed. Payment by Results (PbR) coding data were obtained from the hospital’s Family Health Directorate. Clinical details were obtained from contemporaneous records. All readmissions were categorised as appropriately coded (postoperative or nonoperative) or inappropriately coded (planned surgical readmission, unrelated surgical admission, unrelated medical admission or coding error).RESULTSOver the 24-month period, 241 patients were coded as 30-day readmissions, with 143 (59%) meeting the PbR exclusion criteria. Of the remaining 98 (41%) patients, 24 (25%) were inappropriately coded as emergency readmissions. These readmissions resulted in 352 extra bed days, of which 117 (33%) were attributable to inappropriately coded cases.CONCLUSIONSOne-quarter of non-excluded emergency readmissions were inappropriately coded, accounting for one-third of additional bed days. As a stay on a paediatric ward costs up to £500 a day, the potential cost to our institution due to inappropriate readmission coding was over £50,000. Diagnoses and the reason for admission for each care episode should be accurately documented and coded, and readmission data should be reviewed at a senior clinician level.

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