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More CTs, MRIs Could Spell Shorter Hospital Stays

April 13, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Practice Management
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If patients receive advanced imaging just before admission or during the first day, new information shows that they might decrease their hospital stay by about a day and a half, and they might save themselves and the health care system a significant amount of money.

In a study at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, researchers studied 10,005  admissions. Each of the patients received either a CT scan or an MRI sometime during their hospitalization. Lead author Carlos Battle, MD, MBA said, “Results showed that, in comparison, the length of stay was significantly shorter for those imaged on the day before or day of admission vs. day one or two for all admissions of at least three days,” as recorded in Medical News Today, sourcing the April issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

For patients receiving early abdominal CT scans, hospital stays were 8.4 days, as opposed to patients who did not get the imaging, at 9.7 days. Neurologic MRI patients’ stays were 7.6 days, down from 8.7 days.

The CT and MRI patients’ economic outlay was also less. “In terms of cost, given that an average cost of a hospital stay is $2,129 per day, the estimated decrease in cost for [the] one-year period analyzed in this study associated with an average one day reduction in length of stay is $2,129 per admission,” Dr. Battle said.

Since 18% of  insurance premiums are paid for inpatient charges, and charges go up about 8% a year, the savings could only get better. “The stable growth of hospital costs, despite marked increases in imaging costs, has led to the observation that the increased use of modern imaging has been associated with a decrease in other costs of hospitalization, such as length of stay, which our study seeks to demonstrate,” Dr. Battle said.

“Although the study design does not establish cause and effect,” he continued, “our results suggest that early imaging could expedite inpatient care and discharge in certain types of patients, but they do not imply that automatic ordering of imaging should replace clinical judgement.”

Related seminar: The Business of Radiology

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