Ever Shortening Hospital Stays…

You probably know someone who had a major hospital procedure who returned home just a day or two later. It’s a story that’s becoming more and more common.
Did you know length of stay is tied at least in part to how hospitals are paid?

As recently as 1980 – the average hospital stay lasted 7.3 days. Now it’s approximately half that amount of time.

What happened?

For one – Medicare stopped paying hospitals for the cost of a stay and started paying tied to a patient’s individual diagnosis.   Under this new “system”, hospitals are paid the same for a given diagnosis whether a patient stays one day – or four. In other words – actuaries (people who compile and analyze statistics – using them to calculate payments) began deciding for doctors and patients when a patient was healthy enough to be discharged – all without seeing the individual patient involved. This change effectively shifted financial “risk” from the government to hospitals – making it more profitable for hospitals to limit time of care – often regardless of patient needs.

Put simply – shorter stays mean greater profit for hospitals.

What has all this meant for patients and their families?

New challenges for caring for loved ones and readmission rates on the rise.

Why are rates rising?

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