Prolonged Hospital Stay and the Resident Duty Hour Rules of 2003

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Resident duty hour reforms of 2003 had the potential to create a major impact on the delivery of inpatient care.


We examine whether the reforms influenced the probability of a patient experiencing a prolonged hospital length of stay (PLOS), a measure reflecting either inefficiency of care or the development of complications that may slow the rate of discharge.

Research Design:

Conditional logistic models to compare PLOS in more versus less teaching-intensive hospitals before and after the reform, adjusting for patient comorbidities, common time trends, and hospital site.


Medicare (N = 6,059,015) and Veterans Affairs (VA) (N = 210,276) patients admitted for medical conditions (acute myocardial infarction, heart failure, stroke, or gastrointestinal bleeding) or surgical procedures (general, orthopedic, and vascular) from July 2000 to June 2005.


Prolonged length of stay.


Modeling all medical conditions together, the odds of prolonged stay in the first year post reform at more versus less teaching intensive hospitals was 1.01 (95% CI: 0.97–1.05) for Medicare and 1.07 (0.94–1.20) for the VA. Results were similarly negative in the second year post reform. For “combined surgery” the post year 1 odds ratios were 1.04 (0.98–1.09) and 0.94 (0.78–1.14) for Medicare and the VA respectively, and similarly unchanged in post year 2. Isolated increases in the probability of prolonged stay did occur for some vascular surgery procedures.


Hospitals generally found ways to cope with duty hour reform without increasing the prevalence of prolonged hospital stays, a marker of either inefficient care or complications.

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