Federal officials: Length of hospital stays continue to get shorter for U.S. patients
Wednesday, April 9th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
ATLANTA (AP) _ Hospital stays continue to get shorter for U.S. patients, and heart disease remains the main reason for hospitalization, federal officials reported Wednesday.
The country's 32.7 million hospital patients had average stays of 4.9 days in 2001, according to the most recent data studied by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study is conducted each year, using data from hospital discharges.
Most patients were in the hospital for three days or less, 27 percent stayed for 4 to 7 days and 16 percent stayed longer than a week.
``They're much shorter (stays) because of a lot of advances in medical care,'' said Margaret Hall, CDC health statistician. Patients stayed in hospitals for about 8 days in 1970.
Drug treatment, surgical advances, better outpatient care and more efficient in-house analysis of which patients should stay and which patients should be sent to outpatient centers, have contributed to the decline, Hall said.
``You have to be a lot sicker than you did before a lot of these cost-containment measures were instituted,'' she said. ``When you look at a lot of the (hospital) patients they really are quite sick.''
Changes in the Medicare system in the 1980s and 1990s also contributed to shorter hospital stays by allowing many patients to leave hospitals for post-acute care facilities, said Kenneth Thorpe, chairman of Emory University's department of health policy and management.
``Those are facilities better suited to deal with specific ... needs of the patient,'' Thorpe said. After receiving acute care, patients ``need different types of palliative care, hospice care or rehabilitation.''
About 4.3 million people were hospitalized for heart disease in 2001. Hospitalization for elderly congestive heart failure patients increased by 62 percent from 1980 to 2001.
``We believe it's partly a success story because so many of acute heart problems like heart attacks have been treated so successfully that patients live a lot longer and live to the point where they actually develop'' conditions such as congestive heart failure, Hall said.