Unnecessary hospital admissions cost money and can harm patients

When the elderly go to the emergency room, more often than not, they are admitted to the hospital.

Stuart Turkewitz, a geriatrician posting at his platintiff attorney brother’s malpractice law blog, explains why. Often times, it’s because emergency doctors aren’t familiar with the baseline state of his elderly patients. Subsequently, “the urge to recommend admission is overwhelming,” and the “attending physician often at the other end of the phone, however skeptical of a true change in condition, is ill-prepared to argue against the physician who actually saw the patient moments earlier.”

Hospital admissions are expensive, and often begets further tests and consults that may prove unnecessary. But it starts with the decision to admit, and that’s made in the ED.

There’s little question that the unpredictable nature of malpractice lawsuits influences these physicians’ decision-making process. And when it doubt, they understandably admit the patient.

In fact, as Dr. Turkewitz writes, not only do unnecessary admissions dwarf the costs of tests and procedures, elderly patients don’t always do well while hospitalized.

And that’s why those unwilling to accept the need for malpractice reform are missing an obvious way to both improve patient care and lower health care spending.