The article "N.C. Baptist charges highest-survey" (Sept. 12, p. 33) once again shows the fallacy of using aggregate data from the North Carolina Medical Database Commission to compare hospital charges across the state. I have long believed that comparing all hospitals based solely on their aggregate average charges for all DRGs is highly misleading, if not outright unfair.
When it comes to North Carolina Baptist Hospitals, the teaching hospital of the Bowman Gray School of Medicine at Wake Forest University, such comparisons are flawed for the following reasons:
Baptist does not provide routine obstetrical deliveries, the least expensive DRG.
Baptist, as befits a leading academic center, treats the sickest and most complicated patients, as evidenced by its high case-mix index.
Eighty percent of Baptist's admissions are patients who were referred from local providers that judged they could not perform the necessary treatment as well as Baptist.
If hospitals were compared based on those procedures Baptist does most often (and, we believe, best), the results would show that Baptist does them less expensively and quite competitively. Taking Baptist's 15 highest-volume DRGs for the same time period covered in the report used for your story (these DRGs account for 27% of total discharges at Baptist), Baptist now becomes the least expensive among the five hospitals compared, and even lower than the statewide average.
LEN B. PRESLAR Jr.
North Carolina Baptist Hospitals