The authors examined the “hub-and-spoke” health care system in the United States for patients transferred from one hospital (“spoke”) to a major teaching hospital (“hub”) and assessed the financial and clinical impact of this system on major teaching hospitals.
The authors surveyed Council of Teaching Hospitals and Health Systems members to collect detailed financial and clinical data from fiscal year 2015 for transfer cases and nontransfer cases (cases directly admitted to the teaching hospital). Data included computed margins (the difference between revenue received and direct and indirect facility costs as estimated by the hospitals) as well as case severity, average length of stay (ALOS), time of admission, surgical or medical status, and other situational variables for All Patient Refined Diagnosis Related Groups (APR-DRGs). The authors used an ordinary least-squares regression model with fixed effects to analyze the data.
Twenty-six hospitals provided data. The average difference between transfer and nontransfer cases was a 2.18 day longer ALOS and a $1,716 lower computed margin, for a case in the same APR-DRG and hospital (P
< .001 for both outcomes). Transfer cases had a 19% higher case severity of illness rating and were disproportionately represented among complex APR-DRGs. Transfer patients were 14% more likely to be Medicaid beneficiaries.
Compared with nontransfer cases, transfer cases at major teaching hospitals were more complex and resulted in greater resource utilization, affecting the financial margins on which teaching hospitals rely to support their multipart mission.