These hospitalizations drive up costs and are tough on patients

Many people end up in the hospital unnecessarily. A diabetic has trouble getting to the doctor and then fails to get the preventive foot exams that would have saved him from being admitted to the hospital with a major foot infection. These potentially preventable hospitalizations among adults cost over $31 billion per year in the United States.

Among states with available data, West Virginia has the highest per person costs for these hospitalizations, at $176 per person, according to tallies from the RWJF Data Hub. Following West Virginia are New Jersey at $171, Kentucky at $160 and Rhode Island at $159. Utah spends the least, at $47 per person.

Utah also has the lowest rate of these hospitalizations with 916 per 100,000 people in the population in 2009. The highest rate was in Kentucky, where 2,560 such hospitalizations occurred for every 100,000 people.

Preventable hospitalizations are not only a problem among adults. Many children also end up in the hospital when it might have been avoided. Rates of potentially preventable hospitalizations among children ages 6-17 vary considerably across states, from 80 per 100,000 children in Vermont to 300 per 100,000 in Kentucky. These hospitalizations are for conditions including diabetes, asthma, urinary infections, and gastroenteritis.

Sources and Notes: SHADAC analysis of 2009 Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) data using the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Patient Quality Indicator (PQI) and Pediatric Quality Indicators (PDI).   

National results were calculated on the Nationwide Inpatient Sample. State specific results were calculated by using the State Inpatient Databases. Both types of files are made available through the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project.

Rates were adjusted by age and gender to the U.S. 2000 standard population.

Total costs associated with potentially preventable hospitalizations were calculated by multiplying charges times relevant cost to charge ratios.