To determine the reason for large regional differences in average hospital length of stay shown in federal discharge abstract data, the medical records of 482 cardiac patients from hospitals belonging to two metropolitan area PSROs of Baltimore, Maryland, and 438 cardiac patients from hospitals in the Metropolitan area PSRO from Portland, Oregon, were reviewed, stratified by diagnosis and complications, and compared for length of stay. Cardiac patients were hospitalized between 2.5 and 7 days longer in Baltimore than in Portland. Federal data on length of hospital stay were basically correct for the diagnostic categories studied. Length-of-stay differences could not be explained by patient differences and appeared to be clue to differences in physician practice patterns.
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