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  • Hospital Rates, Lengths of Stay Drop; Costs Continue 'Steady' 1.8% Rise

    "Greater use of chronic disease management programs and emphasis on outpatient treatment" may be part of the explanation for an overall decrease in inpatient hospital stays from 2003 to 2012, according to a recent report that analyzed community hospital use over a 10-year period (pdf).

    According to the study, hospitalization rates dropped by an average of .3% per year from 2003 to 2008, and an average of 1.8% per year from 2008 to 2012.

    The report, issued by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, looked at rates, length, costs, and demographic variables related to hospitalization, and found that in addition to dropping rates, length of hospitalization also decreased by an average of .2% per year between 2003 and 2012.

    Other findings in the report:

    • Mean inflation-adjusted hospital costs grew at a "relatively steady" rate of 1.8% during the 10-year study period. Aggregate rates grew at an average 2.4% per year between 2003 and 2008, then slowed to a .7% growth rate after that.
    • The rate of hospitalization decreased from 128 stays per 1,000 population in 2003 to 116 stays per 1,000 population in 2012. The decrease was noted across all age groups but occurred at the highest rate for individuals 65 and over, a group that saw an average drop of 4% annually from 2008 to 2012.
    • The percentage of stays paid by Medicare increased from 37.1% in 2003 to 39.1% in 2012, while the percentage of stays paid by private insurers dropped, from 36.6% in 2003 to 30.6% in 2012.

    In looking at statistics related only to 2012 stays, the HCUP study reported 36.5 million stays during the year, with an average length of stay of 4.5 days, and cost of $10,000. As in previous years, most stays (56%) were medical, with 21.8% being surgical and 22.2% maternal/neonatal. Females had higher hospitalization rates than males during the year, but males averaged longer stays and higher costs.

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