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Unneeded Hospital Transfers Add to U.S. Health-Cost Burden

Posted Sep 10 2010 11:00am
Reducing 'secondary over-triage' could help improve balance sheet, researchers say

By Robert Preidt
Friday, September 10, 2010
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FRIDAY, Sept. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Reducing the unnecessary transfer of patients between hospitals (secondary over-triage) may be a way to decrease U.S. health-care system costs, a new study suggests.

Secondary over-triage occurs when patients are transferred from one hospital to another and discharged from the second hospital in less than 24 hours.

If patients are discharged from the second hospital within 24 hours, it's doubtful that they needed to be transferred there in the first place, according to study author David Chang, director of the Center for Surgical Systems and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego.

He and colleague Hayley Osen, a research analyst at the center, found that 20 percent of child patients were discharged within 24 hours after transfer to a second hospital.

"The average cost of a patient who faces secondary over-triage is $5,917, a significant burden given that per capita spending alone in the U.S. is around $8,000," Osen said in a UCSD news release.

"The paper highlights the issue of defensive medicine," Chang said in the news release. "We found that pediatric patients are most prone to secondary over-triage, which may be due to physicians or hospitals being overly cautious for fear of legal repercussions."

The study is published in the Sept. 10 issue of the Journal of Trauma.

SOURCE: University of California, San Diego, news release, Sept. 10, 2010

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