Effect of Hospitalists on Length of Stay in the Medicare Population: Variation According to Hospital and Patient Characteristics

[See editorial comments by Drs. Susan E. Merel and Wayne McCormick, pp 1803-1805]


Address correspondence to Yong-Fang Kuo, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Boulevard, Galveston, TX 77555. E-mail: yokuo@utmb.edu


OBJECTIVES: To assess how shorter length of stay (LOS) associated with hospitalist care than with care by other physicians varied according to patient and hospital characteristics and to explore whether these differences in LOS changed over time in the Medicare population.

DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study using data from a 5% national sample of Medicare beneficiaries.

SETTING: Hospital.

PARTICIPANTS: To examine temporal trends, 1,981,654 Medicare admissions in 2001 to 2006 at 5,036 U.S. hospitals were used. To examine the influence of patient and hospital characteristics, 314,590 admissions in 2006 were used.


RESULTS: In multivariable analyses controlling for patient and hospital characteristics, differences in LOS associated with hospitalist care increased from 0.02 fewer days in 2001/02 to 0.22 days in 2003/04 to 0.35 days in 2005/06. For 2006 admissions, differences in LOS were greater in older patients and patients with a higher diagnosis-related group (DRG) weight. The differences were three times as great for medical as for surgical DRGs, with greater differences in LOS at nonprofit than for-profit hospitals and at community than teaching hospitals.

CONCLUSION: The shorter LOS associated with hospitalist care would appear to be greatest in older, complicated, nonsurgical patients cared for at community hospitals.