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Lowering costs for higher-cost medicare patients through better outpatient care may be limited
Date:6/26/2013

. The researchers summed standardized costs for each inpatient and outpatient service contained in standard 5 percent Medicare files from 2009 and 2010 across the year for each patient in their sample, and defined those in the top decile (one of ten groups) of spending in 2010 as high-cost patients and those in the top decile in both 2009 and 2010 as persistently high-cost patients. Standard algorithms were used to identify potentially preventable emergency department visits and acute care inpatient hospitalizations. A total of 1,114,469 Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries 65 years of age or older were included.

The high-cost patient group, which included 10 percent of the patients in this sample, were older, more often male and more often black. This group was responsible for 32.9 percent of ED costs and 79.0 percent of inpatient costs. Within the high-cost group, 42.6 percent of ED visits were deemed to be preventable. These visits were associated with 41 percent of the ED costs within this group. The most common reasons for preventable hospitalization in high-cost patients were congestive heart failure, bacterial pneumonia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Within the high-cost group, 9.6 percent of hospital costs were attributable to preventable hospitalization. Within the non-high-cost group, though overall spending was significantly lower, a higher proportion of inpatient costs were potentially preventable (16.8 percent).

"Comparable proportions of ED spending (43.3 percent) and inpatient spending (13.5 percent) were preventable among persistently high-cost patients. Regions with high primary care physician supply had higher preventable spending for high-cost patients," the authors write.

"The biggest drivers of inpatient spending for high-cost patients were catastrophic events such as sepsis, stroke, and myocardial infarction, as well as cancer and expensive orthopedic procedures such as spine surgery and hip re
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Contact: Marge Dwyer
mhdwyer@hsph.harvard.edu
617-432-8416
The JAMA Network Journals
Source:Eurekalert

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