The Effect of High Nursing Surveillance on Hospital Cost

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The purpose of this study was to determine the cost of one nursing treatment, surveillance, for older, hospitalized adults at risk for falling.


An observational study using information from data repositories at one Midwestern tertiary hospital. The inclusion criteria included patients age >60 years, admitted to the hospital between July 1, 1998 and June 31, 2002, at risk for falls or received the nursing treatment of fall prevention.


Data came from clinical and administrative data repositories that included Nursing Interventions Classification (NIC). The nursing treatment of interest was surveillance and total hospital cost associated with surveillance was the dependent variable. Propensity-score analysis and generalized estimating equations (GEE) were used as methods to analyze the data. Independent variables related to patient characteristics, clinical conditions, nurse staffing, medical treatments, pharmaceutical treatments, and other nursing treatments were controlled for statistically.


The total median cost per hospitalization was $9,274 for this sample. The median cost was different (p = 0.050) for patients who received high versus low surveillance. High surveillance delivery cost $191 more per hospitalization than did low surveillance delivery.


Propensity scores were applied to determine the cost of surveillance among hospitalized adults at risk for falls in this observational study. The findings show the effect of high surveillance delivery on total hospital cost compared to low surveillance delivery and provides an example of a useful method of determining cost of nursing care rather than including it in the room rate. More studies are needed to determine the effects of nursing treatments on cost and other patient outcomes in order for nurses to provide cost-effective care. Propensity scores were a useful method for determining the effect of nursing surveillance on hospital cost in this observational study.

Clinical Relevance

The results of this study along with possible clinical benefits would indicate that frequent nursing surveillance is important and might support the need for additional nursing staff to deliver frequent surveillance.

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