Death rates for elderly patients transferred to acute-care long-term hospitals increasing

New approaches to patient care at long-term acute care hospitals throughout the U.S. are needed considering that the survival rate of elderly patients transferred to such facilities after a critical illness is low, a new study published in today's Journal of the American Medical Association finds.

From 1997 to 2006, the use of long-term acute care hospitals increased by an average of nearly 9 percent annually. The number of such hospitals more than doubled over that time period, with the number of patients nearly tripling. The one-year mortality rate was high throughout for such patients: between 1997 and 2000, the mortality rate stood at 50.7 percent. From 2004 to 2006, it mortality rate was 52.2 percent.

"The clinical and economic burden of patients with chronic critical illness is significant and likely to expand with the aging of the population and advances in critical care that increase patient survival," said lead author Jeremy Kahn, MD, of the University of Pennsylvania. "Long-term outcomes of the chronically critically ill are poor, with substantial need for new approaches to their care."

Kahn reported that costs over the study period increased from $484 million to over $1.3 billion annually. While in 1997 fewer than 40 people per 100,000 (.7 percent of the Medicare patient base) were admitted to the facilities, by 2006, that number was close to 100 people per 100,000 (2.5 percent of the patient population).

For more information:
- here's the study's abstract
- read this HealthDay News article via U.S. News & World Report
- check out this Medscape Today piece

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