Homeless patients cost $2,500 more per hospital stay, study finds

TheGlobeandMail.com – news/national/Toronto
Published Tuesday, Mar. 08, 2011.   Jill Mahoney

Homeless patients cost hospitals an extra $2,500, largely because they have underlying health problems and stay longer, a new study suggests.

The research found that hospital stays by the homeless cost an average of $2,559 more than for other patients – “a substantial impact on the health care system,” Stephen Hwang, lead author of the study and a physician at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, said in a release.

Dr. Hwang compared data for 3,081 homeless patients and 90,345 patients from the general population who were admitted to St. Mike’s over a five-year period. He adjusted the data for age, sex and severity of illness.

The study, which is published in the March issue of Medical Care, found that homeless patients arrived at the hospital with more health problems and stayed longer, often because there was nowhere to send them after they no longer needed acute care.

Dr. Hwang’s past research found that homeless people land in hospital more often, with 23 hospitalizations per 100 homeless people in one year versus five hospitalizations per 100 people in the general population.

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