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Shorter Hospital Stay May Backfire When It Comes to Cost-Saving

Ron Winslow, a veteran medical reporter at The Wall Street Journal, explores the trend toward shorter hospital stays, finding that while they may reduce costs in the short-term, they may also drive an increase in hospital re-admissions, and so, ultimately, negate any savings.

The findings (from a just-released study on Medicare heart patients) may fuel the current debate over lowering health care costs while at the same time reducing hospital readmissions, Winslow writes:

The findings raise the possibility that the drive to reduce the length of time patients spend in hospitals—a key cost-containment strategy for both government and private insurers—may have backfired when it comes to reducing overall health expenditures related to heart-failure admissions.

"From a societal point of view, dollars spent on health care likely increased," said Harlan Krumholz, a Yale University cardiologist and senior author of the study, which is being published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. "We got them out faster and we capped initial hospital costs, but the downstream costs may have increased."

This program aired on June 2, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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