New statistics confirm what anyone in health care could guess: hospital care for the very sick or vulnerable in the United States is very expensive and often futile. In certain instances, however, some say such costly episodes might be minimized or even prevented by quality hospital care.
According to a statistical brief issued in October by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP), the top 0.5% of the most expensive hospital stays in 2008 averaged $568 040 in total charges, with a mean charge per day of $17 224 and an average length of stay of 48.4 days. Septicemia; live-born infant; respiratory failure; complication of device, implant, or graft; and acute cerebrovascular disease were the most common principal diagnoses leading to the highest hospitalization charges (http://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb97.pdf).
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While most expensive hospital stays reflect honest efforts to treat severely ill patients, certain diagnoses, such as septicemia, suggest that using quality-control processes might lower costs.
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