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Ann Thorac Surg. 2009 Dec;88(6):1749-56. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2009.08.006.

Health care utilization among surgically treated Medicare beneficiaries with lung cancer.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195-6410, USA.



Markers of increased health care utilization are surrogates for adverse events, and one such metric--prolonged length of stay greater than 14 days (PLOS)--was recently endorsed as a provider-level performance measure.


This is a cohort study (1992 through 2002) aimed to describe increased health care utilization among 21,067 operated lung cancer patients using the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End-Results-Medicare database. Increased utilization was defined by PLOS, discharge to an institutional care facility (ICF), or readmission within 30 days.


Twelve percent of patients had a PLOS, 13% were discharged to an ICF, and 15% were readmitted. In multivariate analyses, factors associated with a higher odds ratio of PLOS, discharge to ICF, or readmission included age older than 80 years, increasing comorbidity index, not being married, and pneumonectomy (all p < 0.05). Relative to patients living in the West, those in the Midwest or South had a higher odds ratio of PLOS and readmission but a lower odds ratio of discharge to an ICF (all p < 0.05). Adjusted rates of PLOS decreased significantly with time, whereas adjusted ICF and readmission rates increased (all p < 0.01). Patients who required increased utilization had higher adjusted 2.5-year mortality rates compared with those who did not (PLOS, 42% versus 20%; ICF, 32% versus 20%; readmission, 33% versus 19%; all p < 0.001).


Baseline health status and nonclinical factors were associated with increased utilization, nonuniform trends in utilization were observed with time, and increased utilization was associated with worse long-term outcomes. These findings have implications for quality-improvement initiatives that measure increased health care utilization as a surrogate for provider performance.

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