Seriously ill hospitalized adults: Do we spend less on older patients?

Mary Beth Hamel, Russell S. Phillips, Joan M. Teno, Joanne Lynn, Anthony N. Galanos, Roger B. Davis, Alfred F. Connors, Robert K. Oye, Norman Desbiens, Douglas J. Reding, Lee Goldman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To determine the effect of age on hospital resource use for seriously ill adults, and to explore whether age-related differences in resource use are explained by patients' severity of illness and preferences for life-extending care. STUDY DESIGN: Prospective cohort study. SETTING: Five geographically diverse academic acute care medical centers participating in the SUPPORT Project. PATIENTS: A total of 4301 hospitalized adults with at least one of nine serious illnesses associated with an average 6-month mortality of 50%. MEASUREMENTS: Resource utilization was measured using a modified version of the Therapeutic Intervention Scoring System (TISS); the performance of three invasive procedures (major surgery, dialysis, and right heart catheter placement); and estimated hospital costs. RESULTS: The median patient age was 65; 43% were female, and 48% died within 6 months. After adjustment for severity of illness, prior functional status, and study site, when compared with patients younger than 50, patients 80 years or older were less likely to undergo major surgery (adjusted odds ratio .46), dialysis (.19), and right heart catheter placement (.59) and had median TISS scores and estimated hospital costs that were 3.4 points and $7161 lower, respectively. These differences persisted after further adjustment for patients' preferences for life-extending care. CONCLUSIONS: Compared with similar younger patients, seriously ill older patients receive fewer invasive procedures and hospital care that is less resource-intensive and less costly. This preferential allocation of hospital services to younger patients is not based on differences in patients' severity of illness or general preferences for life-extending care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1043-1048
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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