Diagnosis-related group (DRG) based reimbursement creates incentives for reduction in hospital length of stay (LOS). Such reductions might be accomplished by lesser incidences of discharges to home. However, we previously reported that, while controlling for DRG, each 1-day decrease in hospital median LOS was associated with lesser odds of transfer to a postacute care facility (P = .0008). The result, though, was limited to elective admissions, 15 common surgical DRGs, and the 2013 US National Readmission Database.METHODS:
We studied the same potential relationship between decreased LOS and postacute care using different methodology and over 2 different years. The observational study was performed using summary measures from the 2008 and 2014 US National Inpatient Sample, with 3 types of categories (strata): (1) Clinical Classifications Software’s classes of procedures (CCS), (2) DRGs including a major operating room procedure during hospitalization, or (3) CCS limiting patients to those with US Medicare as the primary payer.RESULTS:
Greater reductions in the mean LOS were associated with smaller percentages of patients with disposition to postacute care. Analyzed using 72 different CCSs, 174 DRGs, or 70 CCSs limited to Medicare patients, each pairwise reduction in the mean LOS by 1 day was associated with an estimated 2.6% ± 0.4%, 2.3% ± 0.3%, or 2.4% ± 0.3% (absolute) pairwise reduction in the mean incidence of use of postacute care, respectively. These 3 results obtained using bivariate weighted least squares linear regression were all P < .0001, as were the corresponding results obtained using unweighted linear regression or the Spearman rank correlation.CONCLUSIONS:
In the United States, reductions in hospital LOS, averaged over many surgical procedures, are not accomplished through a greater incidence of use of postacute care.