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Shorter Hospital Stays Are Better for Patients, VA Finds

Compliments of: Veterans Administration

A shorter stay in the hospital can actually be more beneficial to you than a longer stay, according to a recent VA study that appeared in the December 18, 2012 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

“This study shows that a large health care system like VA can improve both quality and efficiency to provide better, more cost-effective care,” said Dr. Peter Kaboli, a hospitalist at the Iowa City VA Health Care System and the study’s lead researcher. “Ultimately the focus should not be how long a patient is in the hospital, but ensuring they get the care they need as efficiently as possible and get them out of the hospital as soon as they are ready.”

Kaboli and his research team came to this conclusion after examining the records of over four million Veterans hospitalized at 129 VA medical centers between 1997 and 2010.

“People come to the hospital for all kinds of medical conditions, so for our study we looked at everybody,” the researcher said. “But we also zeroed in on some of the more common health issues like heart failure and pneumonia.”

As the study progressed, an interesting pattern began to emerge: hospital stays at VA decreased by almost 30 percent over a period of about 14 years.

“We initially thought this might translate into higher readmission rates and death rates,” Kaboli said. “It turned out to be just the opposite: readmission rates went down by 16 percent. Death rates went down by three percent.”

“Creative research of this nature is a major factor leading to continuous improvement of the medical services we provide to our Nation’s Veterans.”

— Dr. Joel Kupersmith, VA Chief Research & Development Officer

The take-away from all this? “The individual needs to be in the hospital for as long as it takes to address their medical issues, and no longer,” Kaboli observed. “Everyone is different…one patient might be able to go home within 48 hours. Another patient might not be able to go home for five days.”

Kaboli said VA’s success in lowering readmission rates while simultaneously reducing hospital stays points to an increased level of efficiency. He attributes this increased efficiency to three big factors.

“First, throughout VA we’ve been working hard on improving the coordination that occurs between the hospital and our outpatient services,” he explained. “Successfully transitioning out of the hospital into outpatient care is so critical. The patient’s health and well-being depend on this transition being done correctly.

“Second,” he continued, “we’re working hard on constantly improving the quality of the care we provide. For example, care at VA is now delivered by Patient Aligned Care Teams — a team of specialists who coordinate closely with one another regarding the patient’s case. The patient is a big part of this team.”

The third big factor? Specialization.

“VA has adopted the use of hospitalists at over 80 percent of our medical centers,” Kaboli said. “Hospitalists are physicians who specialize in the care of hospitalized patients. Care delivered by hospitalists has been shown to be more efficient and can result in higher quality health care.”

Kaboli said quality health care occurs when everyone — the patient, the patient’s family, and hospital staff — are communicating with one another.

“In the end,” he said, “it’s all about listening to the patient so we can determine what their needs are, what their goals are. The patient needs to be at the center of the whole process.”

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About Posted by Susan Bainbridge

At age 6, Susan was destined to be a journalist and photographer. In 1980, Susan founded Bainbridge News and The Bainbridge Chronicle Newspaper. Bainbridge News specializes in Military and National Politics, including Military Funerals and Burials and Political Funerals and Burials. Susan has covered the White House, the Pentagon and Capitol Hill. She has covered every president from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama. Recognized for her versatility, Susan has also covered finance, crime, civil rights events, marches, sports, musical events and more. In 1990, she established Bainbridge Photography, an On-Location photography company. In addition to military and political events, including Military and Political funerals and burials, Bainbridge Photography expanded into covering ALL funerals and burials, receptions, weddings, real estate, inventory, insurance, portrait, head shot, pets, fire and Hazmat. Miss Bainbridge believes in going the extra mile. "My Clients always come first." In 1980, Susan began her career in Washington, D.C., working for WMZQ Radio as a reporter and guest hostess from 1980 to 1985. Intrigued by radio, Susan wanted to write, freelancing for radio, television and print newspapers, including AP, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Northern Virginia Sun, The Press-Republicanand The Bainbridge Chronicle (established by Susan Bainbridge). In 1986, Susan worked at WDCA-TV Channel 20 as a guest hostess for "Eye On Washington." From 1990 to 1994, Susan reported and anchored for "The Arlington Weekly News." Additionally, she produced a segment for the G. Gordon Liddy Radio Show. A prolific writer, while in high school in 1977, Bainbridge wrote an episode for NBC's "Little House on The Prairie" entitled "Laura's Best Friend." Though the show's producers did not use the script then, NBC producers encouraged Susan to pursue a writing and journalism career. Susan is a member of the National Press Club, the National Press Photographer's Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. Susan Bainbridge's recognitions include from former Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton, former First Lady Nancy Reagan, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the late actor Lorne Greene, among many others. BAINBRIDGE NEWS was founded in 1980 by Susan Bainbridge (a sixth generation writer), a third generation journalist, a first generation photographer and a fourth generation entrepreneur. She is the first generation to establish a news business. Bainbridge News is dedicated in honor of Miss Bainbridge's late grandfather and idol, Mark S. Watson (The Baltimore Sun editor and war correspondent from 1920 to his death in 1966).

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