Aims: This study was launched to address the knowledge gap regarding factors leading to readmission to hospital. Background: Repeated hospital admission is an issue of concern for health care service providers. Research findings reveal that multiple factors can contribute to the phenomenon, but no study has examined the direct and indirect effects of these variables on hospital readmission. Design: A survey conducted during the period from 2003-2005 in three hospitals in Hong Kong. Methods: Patients who were readmitted to the same hospital within 28 days during the study periods were included. Data were collected using structured interviews. A structural equation model was employed to examine what factors will contribute to hospital readmission. Results: The final model showed that subjective health outcome was the only significant variable that had a direct effect on readmission, and it had indirect effects on readmission mediating through the variables of age, income and satisfaction with care. Conclusions: A literature review reveals that none of the studies has recognised patients' subjective appraisal of their health condition as a significant variable to predict hospital readmission. Results did not find an association between evaluated and perceived need. In other words, patients who felt a higher need for hospital care were not necessarily sicker. It is possible that if patients can be empowered to manage their own health condition and make a fair appraisal of their well-being, unnecessary use of hospital services can be reduced. Relevance to clinical practice: This study provides evidence to support the notion that an effective transitional care programme needs to incorporate patients' own subjective assessment of health in the intervention and measurement of the outcome. We cannot solely use providers' judgment to measure health outcomes, for patients are active agents in seeking health care, and the use of services is to an extent self-selective.
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