Older seniors account for a large share of hospital discharges

The oldest adults have always represented a larger share of hospital discharges than their population size would suggest. So any proposal to cut healthcare costs must take a closer look at how older Americans use hospitals. As FierceHealthcare has noted in the past, some of those visits could be avoided with better preventative care.

In 2008, people ages 65 and older constituted 13 percent of the population, but 35 percent of hospital discharges that year, according to a new Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

In 2008, adults ages 65 and older stayed at hospitals more than 14 million times, accounting for more than one-third of all U.S. community hospital stays and about 14 percent ($158 billion) of total hospital costs.

The report is based on data from the 2008 Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a database of hospital inpatient stays in all short-term, nonfederal hospitals. The data comes from hospitals that make up 90 percent of all discharges in the U.S.

In other findings:

  • Although adults ages 85 and older account for a relatively small share of hospital discharges (8 percent overall), they are more than twice as likely to be hospitalized as 65- to 74-year-olds, with 577 vs. 264 stays per 1,000 population.
  • Not surprisingly, the older a person is, the more likely that person will be discharged to a long-term care facility, such as a nursing home.
  • Among 75- to 84-year-olds, congestive heart failure, pneumonia and irregular heart beat were the top three reasons for hospitalization.
  • Among that same group, the most common procedures underwent in a hospital were blood transfusions, diagnostic cardiac catheterization or coronary arteriography and upper GI endoscopy.

To learn more:
- read the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Program statistical brief