Hospitalists more likely to bill at highest severity level, study finds

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Health Forum found that hospitalists were more likely than nonhospitalists to bill at the highest level of clinical severity possible for their encounters with Medicare patients. 

The study, published March 18, examined a sampling of Medicare Part A and B claims of Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries from 2009 to 2018. It compared the proportion of high-severity billing between hospitalists and nonhospitalist general medicine physicians across initial, subsequent and discharge hospital encounters.

The proportion of high-severity billing was consistently higher among hospitalists across all years, according to the study. 

"These differences do not appear to be explained by substantial differences in complexity of patients treated across US hospitals," the study said. "The increases in hospitalists over time may be contributing to rising costs related to hospital care across the country."

The number of hospitalists who treated hospitalized Medicare beneficiaries grew by 76 percent from 2009 to 2018, according to the study. The number of nonhospitalists who billed for at least one hospital encounter decreased by 43.7 percent over that span. 

Read the full study here

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