Being Paid for Discharging Patients Early!

Are patients of heart failure admitted to hospitals being sent home too early nowadays? Well, the latest evidence on average hospital stay for such patients suggests so. Compared to an almost nine-day stay over a decade ago, heart failure patients are now being discharged in about six days.

And more startling is the fact that the current Medicare fee-for-service system rewards hospitals for discharging such patients sooner, rather than later.

Also, deaths after discharge and hospital readmissions within 30 days of discharge have witnessed a rise, a study published in the June 2 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association has mentioned. However, the death rate during initial hospitalisation has dropped.

For the analysis, researchers scanned the cases of about 7 million heart failure hospitalisations among Medicare recipients. Between 1993 and 2006, they found out, the average time in the hospital had declined by almost three days.

Expressing concern over the early discharge of patients, study co-author Harlan M. Krumholz, MD, of Yale University, said the findings suggest that they (patients) are sent home even before they are ready without the medical support they need to transition from hospital to home.

"This system has worked well for everyone but the patient and society," he tells WebMD. "The hospitals made more money with shorter initial stays and readmissions, and nursing facilities have more patients," said Krumholz.