Specialty cardiac hospitals are treating patients who are less severely ill than patients undergoing bypass surgery or angioplasty at nonspecialty hospitals in the same communities, according to research by Solucient. The research by the healthcare information firm was published as a letter to the editor in the June 30 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
The researchers determined that unadjusted mortality rates at nonspecialty hospitals were twice as high for angioplasty, and patients stayed significantly longer at nonspecialty hospitals for both procedures. But when the data was adjusted for patient characteristics such as severity of illness, age, sex, related diagnoses and volume of procedures performed, the outcomes were similar. The difference between unadjusted and adjusted outcomes "strongly implies that specialty hospitals are treating less severely ill patients," the Solucient researchers said.
The study analyzed data from January 2002 through September 2004 in an all-payer database containing information on more than 17 million annual discharges in the U.S.