Proposed resident work hour limitations could cost teaching hospitals $1.6B

Residents are the engine that drives teaching hospitals--so cutting down their work hours would be costly. Just how costly? Well, if teaching hospitals were required to follow Institute of Medicine recommendations limiting work shifts, requiring minimum sleep levels and establishing minimum numbers of days off, it could cost $1.6 billion in additional labor costs, according to a new study by RAND Corp. and University of California at Los Angeles researchers.

As if that number weren't bad enough, the study notes that the $1.6 billion figure is in 2006 dollars. Costs could range from $1.1 billion to $2.5 billion, depending on who ends up doing the work that residents aren't doing anymore. Individual hospitals, meanwhile, are likely to shell out an additional $990,000 to $3.5 million.

The study, which appears in the New England Journal of Medicine, is accompanied by an editorial recapping many of the arguments against limiting resident work hours, including concerns about patient handoffs and the possibility that residents won't be as well prepared for clinical practice.

To learn more about the study:
- read this Modern Healthcare piece (reg. req.)

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