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Better Ambulatory Care Could Potentially Avert More Than 4 Million Hospital Stays a Year

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AHRQ News and Numbers

Release date: August 8, 2007

More than 4 million hospitalizations potentially could be prevented each year by improving the quality of primary care, enhancing patients' access to effective treatments, and getting more Americans to adopt healthy behaviors, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Billions of dollars could also be saved by avoiding the need to hospitalize patients for health problems that, in most cases, can be prevented or if already present, kept stable by high-quality care in physicians' offices.

These potential savings are based on AHRQ's estimate that hospitals spent about $29 billion in 2004 on care for 12 potentially preventable conditions in adults:

  • Uncontrolled diabetes without complications ($201 million).
  • Short-term diabetes complications such as hypoglycemia ($764 million).
  • Long-term diabetes complications such as kidney damage ($2.6 billion).
  • Diabetes related foot or leg amputations.
  • Angina not involving a procedure ($435 million).
  • Congestive heart failure ($8.3 billion).
  • High blood pressure ($509 million).
  • Asthma ($1.4 billion).
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ($3.4 billion).
  • Bacterial pneumonia ($7 billion).
  • Dehydration ($1.4 billion).
  • Urinary tract infection ($2 billion).

The estimates are also based on spending for four pediatric conditions:

  • Short-term diabetes complications ($61 million).
  • Asthma ($326 million).
  • Gastroenteritis ($241 million).
  • Urinary tract infection ($109 million).

Over the 7-year period from 1997 to 2004, hospital costs for these potentially preventable conditions increased by nearly one-third (31 percent), adjusted for inflation, while hospital admissions for these conditions increased by only 3 percent.

This AHRQ News and Numbers summary is based on data in Trends in Potentially Preventable Hospitalizations among Adults and Children, 1997-2004 (PDF Help). The report uses statistics from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a database of hospital inpatient stays that is nationally representative of inpatient stays in all short-term, non-Federal hospitals. The data are drawn from hospitals that comprise 90 percent of all discharges in the United States and include all patients, regardless of insurance type, as well as the uninsured.

For additional information on this AHRQ News and Numbers topic, or to speak with an expert, contact Bob Isquith at or call (301) 427-1539.

Current as of August 2007


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