Trends, Projections in Inpatient Hospital Costs, Utilization

Nearly one-third of all health care spending in the United States is attributed to inpatient hospital services. Between 1997 and 2011, aggregate inflation-adjusted hospital costs grew by 3.6 percent annually. Average inpatient hospital costs vary substantially by condition.

Timely information on trends in the costs and types of hospitalizations provides analysts and policymakers with baseline information that can be used to help evaluate the impact of health care improvement efforts.

Trends and Projections in Inpatient Hospital Costs and Utilization, a statistical brief from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP), show how historical HCUP inpatient data from 2003 through 2011, along with early 2012 data from nine HCUP States is used to develop national projections of 2012 and 2013 hospital costs, and other inpatient statistics for all hospitalizations (any reason).

Highlights:

  • In the past decade, average inflation-adjusted hospital costs for all discharges combined grew by 2 percent annually, while total hospital discharges and average length of a hospital stay remained relatively stable.
  • Average hospital costs (in 2013 dollars) increased from $9,100 in 2003 to $10,600 in 2011, and they are projected to be $11,000 in 2013. Total hospital discharges remained relatively stable at 37 to 38 million discharges per year. The average length of a hospital stay remained relatively stable at 4.7 to 4.8 days, and it is projected to be 4.6 days in 2013.
  • Across five general types of hospital service lines, average hospital costs grew by more than 2 percent on average per year for three: surgical, injury, and maternal and neonatal hospitalizations. Discharge volume changed relatively little for all hospital service lines except mental health, which grew by more than 1 percent on average per year. Average length of stay decreased slightly for all hospital service lines except maternal and neonatal, which had slight growth. 
  • The most costly hospital stays were for surgery and injury (projected at $22,500 and $15,100, respectively, in 2013). Discharge volume was highest for medical stays, projected at 17.8 million in 2013 (about half of all stays). Length of stay was longest for mental health and shortest for maternal and neonatal (projected at 6.7 and 3.2 days, respectively, in 2013).

Select to access Trends and Projections in Inpatient Hospital Costs and Utilization.

Current as of July 2014
Internet Citation: Trends, Projections in Inpatient Hospital Costs, Utilization . July 2014. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/hcup-brief.html