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October 2004 News Briefs

October 2004

Published in the October 2004 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

British study finds drug errors cause 5 percent of all hospitalizations

British researchers have concluded that adverse drug errors, a significant number of which involve aspirin, account for up to 5 percent of all hospital admissions.

In a study in the July 3 British Medical Journal, researchers examined a group of more than 18,000 patients. They found that 1,225 admissions (6.5 percent) were related to an adverse drug reaction, and that those reactions directly led to the admission in 80 percent of cases.

Patients admitted because of an adverse drug error were significantly older (the median age was 76) and were more likely to be female. In more than 2 percent of the admissions, the patient died.

Aspirin was identified as a causal agent in 18 percent of all admissions. Other NSAIDs were involved in 12 percent of admissions, while diuretics were involved in 27 percent of the cases studied.

Spending on five conditions grew by $100 billion from 1987 to 2000

Care for five common conditions accounted for nearly one-third of the growth in health care spending in the United States between 1987 and 2000.

According to an article posted on the Web site of Health Affairs, the United States saw spending on heart disease, pulmonary conditions, mental disorders and hypertension grow by a total of more than $100 billion. Total spending on health care in this country, by comparison, grew by $314 billion, or 5.5 percent a year, during that same period.

Spending on heart disease showed the biggest increase, posting an increase of more than $26 billion dollars. Spending on pulmonary conditions was a close second, with an increase of just under $25 billion.

Researchers examined why spending on a total of 15 categories rose during the period. They determined whether spending rose because more people were treated for a certain condition, for example, or because the costs of caring for a condition rose.

The study found that spending on heart disease grew primarily because the costs of treatment rose. Treatment for mental disorders, by comparison, grew primarily because more cases of mental disease were treated during the study period.

The five conditions that led spending growth from 1987-2000

Total increase in spending

Heart disease $26.22 billion

Pulmonary conditions $24.79 billion

Mental disorders $24.50 billion

Cancer $17.73 billion

Hypertension $15.38 billion

Source: Health Affairs

Flu-related hospitalizations have surged in the last 20 years

The number of Americans put into the hospital because of the flu has grown substantially over the last two decades, in part because the population is aging.

According to an article in the Sept. 15 Journal of the American Medical Association, the number of U.S. hospitalizations attributed to the flu now reaches more than 226,000 a year. That number is nearly double the CDC’s previous estimate, although analysts note that the study used a broader definition of flu-related illness.

Patients 85 years and older had the highest rate of influenza-associated hospitalizations due to respiratory and circulatory problems, averaging more than 40,000 hospitalizations a year. Researchers found that the risk of flu-related hospitalization increases after age 49.

The CDC last year released a report that found the number of flu-related deaths quadrupled between 1976-77 and 1998-99. Approximately 36,000 Americans die each year from flu-related deaths.

How staffing shortages are hurting hospitals’ performance

The American Hospital Association recently asked hospitals how workforce problems were affecting their performance. Here are the top areas hospitals said staffing shortages were hurting them.

Emergency department overcrowding 40%

Decreased patient satisfaction 34%

Diverted ER patients 28%

Reduction in staffed beds 23%

Delayed discharge/ increased LOS 18%

Increased waiting times for surgery 17%

Cancelled surgeries 11%

Source: American Hospital Association survey of hospital leaders