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Ever Shortening Hospital Stays…

A patient sitting on hospital bed with leg in cast

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?

Logically – patients released quickly can tend to be sicker and more prone to additional complications – leading to a need for additional hospital care.

And until recently – readmission came without penalties of any kind for hospitals – with each readmission bringing new income.

Profitable on both ends of the equation…

Well that may be starting to change as a result of new programs instituted by the federal government intended to penalize institutions for readmissions.

Called the Medicare Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, hospitals can now lose up to 3% of their total Medicare payments for high rates of readmission within 30 days of initial discharge.

Are these new programs having the desired impact?

Yes – and no. Readmission rates have indeed fallen. But experts point out that the decline is due in part to hospitals gaming the system. Patients (re-)admitted to emergency rooms or placed under “observation status” (another care option which in most cases is indistinguishable from inpatient status) are not actually counted as a readmission – and those rates have risen under these new programs.

Shortening patient stays is a laudable goal – if shorter stays are a result of better medical outcomes. Sadly – that is often not the case. When profits are threatened – those suffering with illnesses are often asked to sacrifice.

If you or a loved one is ever the victim of a surgical error, a defective drug, the improper prescription of a drug therapy, over-exposure to medical radiation, a hospital acquired infection, a fall while in the hospital, a preventable blood clot, a misdiagnosis, or any form of medical malpractice, call a qualified Connecticut medical malpractice lawyer. A knowledgeable malpractice attorney can help to ensure that your rights are protected.

RisCassi & Davis has handled hundreds of medical malpractice cases over our more than 60 years serving the people of Connecticut.

What’s more, our Connecticut medical malpractice lawyers have received local and national recognition for our handling of these cases.

We have a great team of legal experts dedicated to medical malpractice in Connecticut.   Please contact us if we can help you. The consultation is free and there is no obligation of any kind.

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