Shorter length of stay improves readmission, mortality rates

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Despite fears that early discharge will compromise care, new research finds that shorter hospitals stays can actually improve readmission or death rates.

In their study of 129 Veterans Administration hospitals, published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers from Iowa City VA Medical Center found that the hospitals curbed length of stay by an annual 2 percent for 14 years, for a total 27 percent reduction. To the researchers' surprise, though, readmission and mortality rates also declined, by 16 percent and 3 percent respectively, U.S. News & World Report's HealthDay reported.

Researchers attributed the efficiency and improved care to better coordination between hospital and outpatient services, as well as the use of hospitalists.

"VA management has achieved some of the things healthcare reform is trying to achieve," said coauthor of the accompanying editorial Eugene Oddone, a professor of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine. "[The VA system] can be used as a model for some aspects of healthcare reform," he said.

Researchers, however, weren't sure if the same results could be seen at private hospitals. For one thing, the VA system operates on one electronic medical record system, which could explain the marked improvement in communications that researchers mentioned.

Previous research suggests there is a tipping point. According to a study published in Health Care Management Science, patients at large hospitals that are discharged during the busiest times for hospitals are 50 percent more likely to come back in within three days.

For more information:
- check out the study abstract and the editorial
- here's the HealthDay article

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