Association Between Energy Prices and US Hospital Patient Outcomes

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Abstract

Objective

To evaluate associations between changing energy prices and US hospital patient outcomes.

Methods

Generalized estimating equations were used to analyze relationships between changes in energy prices and subsequent changes in hospital patient outcomes measures for the years 2008 through 2014. Patient outcomes measures included 30-day acute myocardial infarction, heart failure, and pneumonia mortality rates, and 30-day acute myocardial infarction, heart failure, and pneumonia readmission rates. Energy price data included state average distillate fuel, electricity and natural gas prices, and the US average coal price. All of the price data were converted to 2014 dollars using Consumer Price Index multipliers.

Results

There was a significant positive association between changes in coal price and both short-term (P = 0.029) and long-term (P = 0.017) changes in the 30-day heart failure mortality rate. There was a similar significant positive association between changes in coal price and both short-term (P <0.001) and long-term (P = 0.002) changes in the 30-day pneumonia mortality rate. Changes in coal prices also were positively associated with long-term changes in the 30-day myocardial infarction readmission rate (P < 0.001). Changes in coal prices (P = 0.20), natural gas prices (P = 0.040), and electricity prices (P = 0.040) were positively associated with long-term changes in the 30-day heart failure readmission rate.

Conclusions

Changing energy prices are associated with subsequent changes in hospital mortality and readmission measures. In light of these data, we encourage hospital, health system, and health policy leaders to pursue patient-support initiatives, energy conservation programs, and reimbursement policy strategies aimed at mitigating those effects.

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