Charges for the most frequent inpatient procedures performed in North Carolina hospitals varied significantly by facility, according to a report released last week by the North Carolina Medical Database Commission.
It's the second state-level report issued this month to reveal wide variations in hospital charges. Charges for coronary bypass surgery, for example, ranged from $15,600 to $72,000 at Virginia hospitals (See related story below).
The report, based on information compiled by the NCMDC, an independent state agency charged with collecting and disseminating healthcare information, is based on discharge data submitted by the state's 153 inpatient hospitals, including general acute-care facilities and specialty hospitals.
Data came from nearly 900,000 patients discharged by hospitals between Oct. 1, 1991, and Sept. 30, 1992.
The report is the second annual hospital charge report from the commission. But data from the two reports can't be compared because this year's report adjusted hospital charge information by the severity of patients' illnesses.
The new report found that the average hospital charge per discharge for all diagnoses combined was $7,819 in fiscal 1992.
The hospital with the highest adjusted average charge per diagnosis-related group was 762-bed North Carolina Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, which charged an average of $15,632 per DRG, or double the statewide average.
Donny Lambeth, Baptist's vice president of finance, said the hospital's charge figures are inflated because it doesn't offer obstetrical services, which would add low-cost discharges into the overall charge calculations.
He also said Baptist has one of the highest case mixes, or patient severity levels, of any hospital in the state, which results in higher costs and charges.
Rounding out the top five highest charging hospitals were Duke University Medical Center in Durham, HCA Highsmith-Rainey Memorial Hospital in Fayetteville, Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte and University of North Carolina Hospitals in Chapel Hill (See chart).
The hospital with the lowest average charge per DRG in fiscal 1992 was 51-bed Crawley Memorial Hospital in Boiling Springs, which charged an average of $2,372 per DRG, or less than one-third of the statewide average.
Meanwhile, hospital charges for common medical procedures varied significantly among North Carolina hospitals, the report said.
For example, the median charge for coronary bypass surgery ranged from $24,810 at Forsyth Memorial Hospital in Winston-Salem to $38,578 at Carolinas Medical Center. The statewide median was $32,586.