Shorter stays could be boon for state's hospitals

January 19, 1994|By Patricia Meisol | Patricia Meisol,Staff Writer

If Maryland hospitals were as efficient in providing patient care as Minneapolis-St. Paul hospitals, they could save at least $11 million and slash 33,000 patient days a year, according to a study that compares the Minnesota hospitals with those around the country.

The study found that U.S. hospitals could save $12 billion annually if they mirrored the practices in Minnesota's largest metro area. The Twin Cities have many patients in managed care, and hospitals are fiercely competitive.

The study, a joint effort by HCIA Inc., a Baltimore-based hospital finance information company, and Mercer Management Consulting Inc., matched patients and severity of diseases in the Minnesota region to those at hospitals in various parts of the country. It found patients with similar illnesses in the Baltimore metropolitan statistical area spent 16.8 percent more days in the hospital.

In a second study released this week, HCIA identified two Maryland hospitals -- Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Towson and Johns Hopkins -- as among 100 institutions nationwide it said were models of quality care and financial efficiency.

Minneapolis-St. Paul was used as a benchmark for the length-of-stay study because it is not the extreme -- California has the lowest hospitalization rates -- but it is competitive and regarded as highly efficient.

Patients in highly regulated states in the Northeast, including Maryland, New York and New Jersey, tended to stay longer in the hospital than those in any other part of the country when compared with Minneapolis, the study found. New York City, for example, took 38 percent more hospital days to treat the same patients as hospitals in Minneapolis. The average was 20 percent.

Jean Chenoweth, HCIA vice president for industry relations, said the data show that in areas where competition is fierce, people pay less and go home earlier.

"Baltimore is no exception -- the length of stay can be lowered toMinneapolis' [length]," Ms. Chenoweth said.

Maryland hospitals have moved to reduce patient stays dramatically in recent years, and days per patient are lower on average than in most of the Northeast, the Maryland Hospital Association said yesterday. Patient stays dropped 3.3 percent alone for the 12 months that ended Sept. 30, forcing some hospitals to lay off staff, and hospitals are increasingly treating patients on a day-only basis.

Nancy M. Fiedler, senior vice president of the MHA, said the Maryland system has kept costs 14 percent below the national average. And while stays may be higher than in Minneapolis, she said, the cost per admission is slightly lower: $5,456 there compared with $5,139 here.

Robert P. Kowal, chief executive officer of Greater Baltimore Medical Center, said his hospital has worked hard to reduce costs in anticipation of having to compete for contracts with insurance companies. He said rankings will become more important as people get more involved in choosing medical care.

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