Inter-hospital transfer is associated with increased mortality and costs in severe sepsis and septic shock: An instrumental variables approach

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Purpose:The objective of this study was to evaluate the impact of regionalization on sepsis survival, to describe the role of inter-hospital transfer in rural sepsis care, and to measure the cost of inter-hospital transfer in a predominantly rural state.Materials and methods:Observational case–control study using statewide administrative claims data from 2005 to 2014 in a predominantly rural Midwestern state. Mortality and marginal costs were estimated with multivariable generalized estimating equations models and with instrumental variables models.Results:A total of 18 246 patients were included, of which 59% were transferred between hospitals. Transferred patients had higher mortality and longer hospital length-of-stay than non-transferred patients. Using a multivariable generalized estimating equations (GEE) model to adjust for potentially confounding factors, inter-hospital transfer was associated with increased mortality (aOR 1.7, 95% CI 1.5–1.9). Using an instrumental variables model, transfer was associated with a 9.2% increased risk of death. Transfer was associated with additional costs of $6897 (95% CI $5769–8024). Even when limiting to only those patients who received care in the largest hospitals, transfer was still associated with $5167 (95% CI $3696–6638) in additional cost.Conclusions:The majority of rural sepsis patients are transferred, and these transferred patients have higher mortality and significantly increased cost of care.

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