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Higher Hospital Spending May Improve Acute Care

How does hospital spending affect patient care? Researchers analyzed the medical records of more than 2.5 million patients admitted to 208 California hospitals during a nine-year period. They found that as a hospital's Medicare spending on patients increased, the risk of dying in the hospital went down. Hospitals in the top fifth spent more than four times as much on average ($21,072) in treating a heart attack as those in the bottom fifth ($5,168). Patients admitted for a heart attack to the highest-spending hospitals were 19 percent less likely to die than those sent to the lowest-spending ones. According to the researchers, if all patients had received the care typical of high-spending hospitals, doctors could have saved the lives of about 3 to 4 percent of them: That's 11,000 people who died of pneumonia, 5,100 who had heart attacks, and 7,400 stroke victims. Differences in diagnostic tests, more time for patients in intensive care units, and greater use of specialists are among factors that may account for the varied outcomes. While the study doesn't prove increased medical spending raises quality of care in all cases, it suggests higher spending may be effective for acute medical conditions.
Source: Annals of Internal Medicine, Feb. 1, 2011



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