Facebook Twitter

Cost of hip, knee surgeries at Utah hospitals varies a lot

New data can help patients make more informed decisions

SHARE Cost of hip, knee surgeries at Utah hospitals varies a lot

The Utah Department of Health has published online its latest hospital-comparison report, this time focusing on hip and knee surgeries. It shows wide variation in the average charge for the surgeries among different Utah hospitals, despite similarities in outcome.

The report, which examines the surgeries done between 2002 and 2004, looks at hip- and knee-joint replacement and hip-fracture treatment, comparing charges, quality and issues of patient safety. The state compiled data from the hospitals that include how many people died in the hospital, the average charge (not including the physician's fee), length of stay and whether the hospital did a high or low volume of particular procedures.

For patients who had minor to moderate illness, the lowest average charge for knee-joint replacement was $17,252. The highest average charge was $44,365. The report lists variables that can affect that charge, including who pays for the treatment (health insurance companies, for instance, typically negotiate steep discounts), the type of insurance, the hospital's billing procedures and more.

The report also offers quality and safety ratings for common hip and knee procedures, as well as how the ratings compare to the rest of the country. In that 2002-2004 time frame, Utah hospitals were very similar to the rest of the nation in terms of mortality with hip fractures. The report did not rate hospitals that treated fewer than 30 patients with the procedures.

It's a comparison with lots of caveats written in, such as all the factors that can affect in-hospital deaths at a particular facility. And it's quick to point out that the goal is not to tell patients where to have their surgeries, but rather an acknowledgement that many factors play into the decisions. Health officials say it's another tool to help patients be wise health-service consumers.

The report is the third in a series sparked by a Utah law passed in 2005 requiring the department's Health Data Committee to publish such comparisons and make them available to Utahns at no charge. Officials have said they believe one key to curbing rising health costs is letting consumers make informed decisions. Cost, safety and outcomes are all part of that decision-making, they say.

This fall, the committee will publish a report on pneumonia hospitalization and update an earlier maternity and newborn report. The second report dealt with heart surgery and coronary care.

To see how a particular hospital registers in the report, go online at health.utah.gov/myhealthcare.

Key findings in department's hospital-comparison report

Average hospital charges for a minor or moderate illness ranged from $16,730 to $37,072 for hip-joint replacement; $1.552 to $9,559 for femur fractures; and $17,752 to $44,365 for knee-joint replacements.

Illness level and bilateral joint replacement increased charges.

351 patients, or about 7 percent of knee-replacement patients, had both knees done at the same time.

16 hip-replacement patients, or about 0.05 percent, had both hips done during the same hospital stay.

E-mail: lois@desnews.com