PHC4 Research Brief - Potentially Avoidable Hospitalizations Grow - News Release


Contact: Joe Martin, Communications Director
717-232-6787 or


Harrisburg, PA - November 22, 2004 - Early intervention in the outpatient or primary care setting can frequently prevent complications or more severe disease that might resultin a hospitalization for treatment. However, potentially avoidable hospitalizations accounted for 10 percent of all hospital admissions for people under age 65 in Pennsylvania, according to a Research Brief released today by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4). In 2003, there were more than 109,000 potentially avoidable hospitalizations for conditions like pneumonia, diabetes, asthma, and hypertension, which accounted for $2.8 billion in hospital charges and 550,000 hospital days.

"These hospitalizations are numerous and costly, but there is potential for significant cost savings," commented Marc P. Volavka, Executive Director of PHC4. "For example, if the number of preventable hospitalizations for the conditions studied were to decrease by just 10 percent, the savings in hospital charges would be more than $280 million."

The research brief, titled Avoidable Hospitalizations in Pennsylvania, is focused on 16 conditions and based on a software tool called Prevention Quality Indicators (PQI). PQIs were developed and distributed by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). PQIs use hospital administrative data to highlight potential quality concerns, identify areas for further study and to track changes over time. AHRQ uses the PQIs as part of its National Healthcare Quality Report.

In 2003, hospitalizations for low birth weight incurred more than $710 million in charges and more than 143,000 hospital days.  Despite representing less than 9% of all preventable hospitalizations, hospitalizations for low birth weight accounted for 26% of the total number of days hospitalized for all preventable hospitalizations and 25% of the total charges.

Overall, the number of preventable hospitalizations increased 4.1 percent between 1995 and 2003. Hospitalization rates for hypertension, congestive heart failure, low-birth weight, and long-term and short-term complications of diabetes showed significant increases.

Avoidable Hospitalizations in Pennsylvania is the third in a series of PHC4's Research Briefs, which are periodic web-based publications that examine health care topics relevant to public policy and public interest.

The Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4) is an independent state agency charged with collecting, analyzing and reporting information that can be used to improve the quality and restrain the cost of health care in Pennsylvania. Copies of this brief are free and are available on the Council's website at or by calling PHC4 at (717) 232-6787.