The Burden of Guardianship: A Matched Cohort Study

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BACKGROUNDIn cases where patients are unable to provide informed consent and have no surrogate decision-maker, a hospital must seek guardian appointment as a legally recognized surrogate decision-maker.OBJECTIVEThe aim of this study was to examine the magnitudes of length of stay (LOS) beyond medical clearance and healthcare costs among patients referred for guardianship.DESIGN, SETTING AND PATIENTSThis was a retrospective cohort study of all 61 adult inpatients in a single tertiary care hospital requiring guardianship between October 1, 2014, and September 30, 2015, matched with up to three controls from the same discharging services and hospitalized for at least as long as the date of clearance for referred patients.MEASUREMENTSThe following parameters were measured using generalized estimating equations: total LOS, LOS beyond medical clearance (excess LOS), medical complications, and total charges among referred patients, and the LOS and costs were compared with those of matched controls.RESULTSMean LOS for patients requiring guardianship was 31 ± 2 days, and the total charges averaged $179,243 ± 22,950. We documented 12 hospital-acquired complications in 10 (16%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 8%-28%) unique patients. Accounting for potential confounders, the process of obtaining guardianship was associated with a 37% longer total LOS (95% CI [12 %-67%]; P = .002), 58% higher excess LOS (95% CI [2%-145%]; P = .04), and 23% higher total charges (95% CI [4%-46%]; P = .02).CONCLUSIONIn this single-center cohort study, the guardianship process was associated with prolonged hospital stay and higher total hospital charges even when compared with matched controls. Furthermore, one in six patients suffered from a hospital-associated complication after medical clearance.

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