DALLAS -- Cardiologists at Duke University Medical Center have found that hospital stays beyond three days for people being treated for uncomplicated heart attacks may not be cost-effective. Such patients now typically stay in the hospital six days.
The researchers reported at the 71st scientific sessions of the American Heart Association meeting that based on a study of the records of 22,454 patients who stayed in the hospital for about a week, almost all deaths occurred in the first two hospital days. The physicians hypothesized that, at most, 16 such patients may have died if they had been released after 72 hours instead of remaining in the hospital an extra day.
The researchers say there would be little loss of quality care if hospitals reoriented their systems to provide all the necessary procedures to treat such patients in three days.
"The point is not to kick patients out of the hospital early," said the study's lead author, Dr. Kristin Newby in an interview. "It is to optimize the stay of patients who could be clinically ready to go home. The majority of patients have heart attacks that can be effectively treated with today's advanced therapies within 72 hours."
At an average of $529 per hospital day, they found that keeping 22,454 patients in the hospital just one extra day in order to potentially save 16 patients costs the health care system almost $12 million. Previous studies at Duke have shown that days four through six of a typical hospital stay could be cut without compromising patient care.
"Those resources might better be used in providing state-of-the-art therapy to more patients," Newby said. "It could be good for the patient and a great cost savings for society if hospitals would compress the care they offer into fewer, more productive days."
Despite the study's conclusions, Newby said she doubts many hospitals
will quickly adopt such a short stay, since
Contact: Renee Twombly
Duke University Medical Center