Sunday, March 28, 1999

Hospital costs, stays vary widely

Differences found even as networks grow

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Hospital comparison
        Even though most big Tristate hospitals have joined larger systems in recent years, costs and outcomes of care still vary widely.

        A report from the Health Improvement Collaborative of Greater Cincinnati reveals that length of stay for respiratory diseases can vary as much as 66 percent depending where patients get care. Average charges can range from $4,600 to more than $11,000.

        The health collaborative's report started three years ago with data only on overall hospital market trends. The report released this month is the first to offer at least some hospital-by-hospital comparisons.

        This year's report compared performance on respiratory diseases, which include asthma, emphysema, and pneumonia. This is one of the largest categoriesof illnesses treated by hospitals, accounting for about 10 percent of all admissions. These diseases also result in some of the longest, most expensive hospital stays, said Nancy Strassel, collaborative spokeswoman.

        Even after accounting for severity, the report found that lengths of stay ranged 66 percent, from 3.6 days at McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital in Oxford to six days at the Christ and Deaconess hospitals in Cincinnati.

        The differences may indicate that the severity adjustment isn't accurate enough. But at least some of the variation reflects real differences in the way hospitals and physicians provide care, said Dr. Richard Smith, senior vice president of clinical development and quality at TriHealth.

        However, every hospital studied came in at or below its expected mortality rate for respiratory disease.

        In future months, the collaborative plans to issue more specific service reports, including one that compares maternity services. The group plans to issue overall hospital updates every six months.


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