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Hospital Stays and Economic Incentives: What You Need to Know

Have you ever wondered what factors go into a hospital’s decision to release you from care? While you may think that it is based on how well you are faring and the state of your health condition, evidence suggests that the reasons may have more to do with economics. .

Patients Discharged Earlier than Ever Before

According to a January 2016 article published in The New York Times, patients today are discharged after an average hospital stay of 4.5 days. In the 1980s, the average hospital stay before discharge was 7.3 days. And although one may assume that the reason for the shortened discharge has to do with the fact that patients today are healthier and more resilient, the facts paint a more ominous picture. Today’s hospital patients are actually both sicker and older than they were in previous decades.

The Reasons Behind Earlier Hospital Discharges

According to the same Times article cited above, the primary reason for earlier discharges may be profitability. In the 1980s, changes to the way that Medicare pays hospitals may have been the catalyst driving early discharges – rather than paying hospitals whatever their costs were for housing and caring for patients, Medicare implemented a predetermined rate. Under this system, a hospital gets paid the same amount under Medicare whether they keep a patient for four days or for five. Needless to say, keeping the patient for four days would reduce costs.

Earlier Discharges, More Hospital Readmissions

There are a lot of medical and practical problems with discharging patients early to save money. Not only do earlier discharges mean, in many cases, that patients have a higher rate of complication and sickness, but also that patients are more likely to seek readmission. Readmissions can actually be more costly for hospitals than keeping the patients for a longer period of time in the first place.

Of course, discharging a patient early can also be very dangerous for patients. A patient who is discharged too early may lack access to the care that they need outside of a hospital setting, leading to increased risk of ailment progression or further injury.

When Patients Are Discharged Too Early, Who Is Liable?

Hospitals and health care professionals have a duty to exercise a high level of care when treating patients. If a patient is discharged from a hospital before he or she is medically fit to return home, and if the early discharge causes the patient harm that he or she would not have suffered otherwise, the hospital may be held liable as a result. Discharging a patient purely for economic reasons, and not medical ones, is a violation of the standard of care.

Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney Today

If you are a victim of medical malpractice in the form of early discharge, you should discuss your case with an experienced Pennsylvania and New Jersey medical malpractice attorney today. At Cohen, Plactilla & Roth, P.C., our team is ready to meet with you. Contact us today for a free case consultation at (215) 567-3500.

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