Longer hospital stay equals lower mortality, fewer readmissions

One extra day in the hospital cuts costs and significantly reduces the chance of the need to readmit Medicare patients within 30 days, a new study from Columbia Business School found.

That extra day slashed the risk of death for patients treated for pneumonia by 22 percent. Mortality for heart attack patients was cut by 7 percent, as were readmission rates, according to an announcement detailing the findings.

Overall, the number of heart attack and pneumonia patient lives saved with one more day of hospitalization versus outpatient treatment increased five- to six-fold, the school said. The cost savings came into play when comparing the cost of the extra day of hospitalization with the cost of outpatient care required with an earlier discharge. Twenty percent of Medicare patients are readmitted within 30 days of discharge, the authors noted in the study abstract.

The study, titled "Should Hospitals Keep Their Patients Longer? The Role of Inpatient and Outpatient Care in Reducing Readmissions," was published online as a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research, AJMC.com reported. The authors analyzed data for 6.6 million Medicare patients hospitalized between 2008 and 2011.

Another study released two years ago also found that the longer a patient is in the hospital, the less likely he or she is to be readmitted. That study found a "modest but significant drop" in the 30-day readmission rate, which researchers attributed to the additional care patients received during the extra days in the hospital.

Excessive Medicare readmissions will cost hospitals a record number of fines from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services over the next years. More than 2,600 hospitals will receive penalties, with the average fine being higher than this year as the ceiling increases to 3 percent of Medicare reimbursements.

For more information:
- here's the announcement
- read the study abstract
- see the AJMC.com article
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