by Brook Raflo

Hyattsville, Md.

Americans are spending less time in the hospital than ever before, and the home care industry is part of the reason, according to an April 9 report from the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The average length of hospital stay for all ages declined steadily between 1970 and 2001, from 7.8 days to 4.9 days, according to the report, titled “2001 National Hospital Discharge Survey.”

Among Americans age 65 and older, however, the decline was much more drastic — from 12.6 days in 1970 to fewer than six days in 2001.

One reason for the decline was “greater development and coverage of post-acute care alternatives to hospitalization” — alternatives such as home care, said Margaret Hall, the house statistician who wrote the NCHS report.

“People were able to be released earlier, because home care had become so much more sophisticated,” she explained. The widespread implementation of “utilization reviews” also shortened hospital stays significantly, she added.

This report is available at

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