• hospital charges;
  • length of stay;
  • resource use;
  • teaching hospitals

OBJECTIVE:  This study examined the variations in hospital resource use in the treatment of alcohol and drug diagnoses. Specifically, the study tested 2 hypotheses: 1) patients treated in teaching hospitals will have shorter lengths of stay and lower hospital charges than patients treated in nonteaching hospitals; and 2) patients treated in hospitals with more experience treating these conditions will have shorter lengths of stay and lower hospital charges.

DESIGN:  A retrospective cross-sectional study design used data from the 1996 Health Care Utilization Project to test the proposed hypotheses.

PATIENTS/PARTICIPANTS:  The population for this study consisted of patients over 18 years old with an acute alcohol- or drug-related discharge diagnostic related group code.

MEASUREMENT AND MAIN RESULTS:  The variables of interest were teaching hospital status, as defined by the Council of Teaching Hospitals, and hospital experience, defined as the ratio of alcohol- and drug-related diagnoses to the hospital's total admissions. Measures of hospital resource use included the patient's length of stay and total hospital charges. Patients treated at hospitals with relatively more experience in treating alcohol- and drug-related diagnoses had 10.3% ($321) lower total charges (P = .017).

CONCLUSIONS:  Similar to research for high-volume surgical hospitals, these findings confirm that hospitals that have greater experience with complex medical conditions such as alcohol and drug intoxication and withdrawal may be more efficient. This important finding provides a rationale for further exploration of the key factors associated with higher quality and more efficient care for complex medical conditions.