Inpatient hospital deaths on the decline

April 19, 2013

As hospitalizations rise, hospital deaths are on the decline.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the number of inpatients who died while hospitalized decreased while the rate of hospitalizations increased. The report looked at data from the National Hospital Discharge Survey.

During the 11-year period of 2000 to 2010, hospital deaths decreased by 8%, while the rate of all hospitalizations increased by 11%. In 2000, out of every 100 patients, 2.5 would die in the hospital. This number fell to 2.0 out of 100 in 2010.

Despite most Americans hoping to die peacefully in their own home, roughly one-third of the deaths between 2000 and 2010 occurred during an inpatient stay in a general hospital. However, the number of deaths decreased from 776,000 in 2000 to 715,000 in 2010, but hospitalizations went from 31.7 million to 35.1 million. Male inpatient hospital deaths did not decrease in a significant way over the 11-year period, but female hospital deaths went from 411,000 to 364,000.

The average age of hospitalized patients remained relatively constant over the studied period: age 72, during 2000 and 2005, and age 73, during 2010.

While patients under the age of 65 have a lower rate of death, the percentage of deaths increased from 24% in 2000 to 27% in 2010. At the other end of the spectrum, patients over the age of 85 accounted for roughly a quarter of all hospital deaths, seeing a slight increase over the reported period. Patients over the age of 75 years made up the majority of patients at 56% in 2000 and 54% in 2010.

Kidney disease and cancer saw the greatest decreases, at 65% and 46%. Other diagnoses that saw the hospital deaths decrease include respiratory failure, pneumonitis, stroke, pneumonia, and heart disease.

However, the first-listed diagnosis of septicemia did see an increase in the rate of death, 17% from 2000 to 2010. The number of patients who died in the hospital while being treated for the condition tripled from 45,000 in 2000 to 132,000 in 2010. These first-listed diagnoses accounted for 66% of all hospital deaths in 2000 and 70% in 2010.

As a group, patients who died in the hospital were more likely to have longer hospitalizations than the typical patient with an average length of stay being 7.9 days. The average length of stay for all inpatients was 4.8 days. 45% of patient deaths did occur during stays lasting 3 days and under, but hospital stays of this length make up the bulk of all inpatient stays. Far more important is the fact that 27% of hospital deaths occurred during hospitalizations lasting 10 or more days, despite the fact that hospitalizations of this length only account for 10% of all inpatients.