Hospital "Observation Stays" Rising
In recent years, the number of observation stays – i.e. patients being held for observation in a limbo between the emergency room and full patient admission – has sharply increased, according to a new study.
The phenomenon is especially important for patients, who may end up paying more for the stays if they are eventually admitted to skilled-nursing facilities.
The study, conducted by researchers at Brown University, found that observation stays – often lasting more than seventy-two hours – jumped 34 percent nationwide between 2007 and 2009. At the same time, inpatient admissions dropped. The increase in the percentage of observation stays varied according to region.
The increase may be a result, researchers say, of a Medicare policy designed to hold down costs by restricting hospital admissions. Ironically, though, it’s the patients themselves who may end up paying more because of the regulation about skilled-nursing facilities.
The authors called for a comprehensive analysis of the reasons behind the increase as well as a review of the Medicare policy that governs hospital admissions.