Preventable hospital stays more common for older patients

As healthcare costs spiral out of control, inpatient hospital stays for chronic or acute conditions that could have been handled on an outpatient basis continue to be an area ripe for cost cutting.

About 10 percent of the nearly 40 million hospital stays in 2008 could have been avoided, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Broken out, 4 percent of inpatient discharges in 2008 were for potentially preventable acute conditions, and 6 percent were for possibly preventable chronic conditions, according to a new Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project report.

Proper outpatient care could have prevented hospital stays for conditions such as diabetes, dehydration and certain heart conditions and infections, according to AHRQ.

The bulk of preventable hospital stays were for patients ages 65 and older. Such preventable stays were more likely for patients living in the poorest communities than those in the wealthiest neighborhoods. And nearly 10 percent of all uninsured stays were for preventable conditions, compared with 5 percent for privately insured or Medicaid-covered stays.

Certain kinds of hospitals were more likely to see more patients whose stays could have been averted with outpatient care. Rural hospitals are almost twice as likely to deal with such admissions than urban hospitals. And hospitals in the South also had the most preventable stays, while hospitals in the West had the fewest.

The report is based on 2008 data on hospital inpatient stays in all short-term, non-Federal hospitals. Hospitals in the report make up 90 percent of all discharges in the U.S. and include patients regardless of insurance type.

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

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