5 statistics about hospital capacity over time

Hospitals are spending millions of dollars expanding their facilities to improve capacity, but there are fewer beds than ever.

Part of this can be attributed to the growth of ambulatory surgery centers, where people can receive outpatient services. The American Hospital Association publishes a list of statistics each year about the details of hospitals' capacity, finances and services.

Here are five statistics about hospital capacity from the AHA's 2015 annual hospital statistics report.

1. The number of available hospital beds has decreased 36.3 percent since 1946. In 1946, there were 1,436,000 beds available in the U.S. In 2013, there were 915,000. The number of hospital beds has fallen steadily overall, though climbing slightly between 1950 and 1965. Since 1965, the number of beds has gradually decreased year-over-year.

2. The number of hospitals in the U.S. peaked in the 1970s and has decreased since. In 1946, there were 6,125 AHA member hospitals in the U.S. In 2013, there were 5,686. At its peak in 1974, there were 7,174 hospitals.

3. The number of births in hospitals has risen, but is falling again. Between 1946 and 2013, the number of births in hospitals rose more than 75 percent. However, the number of births hit its peak in 2007, when the number of births had risen 93 percent since 1946. Since 2007, the number of births has fallen by 9.2 percent.

4. The average length of stay in nonfederal general hospitals has fallen by 40 percent. In 1946, the average length of stay in a hospital was 9.1 days. In 2013, it was 5.4 days. That number is subject to a margin of error, as the Centers for Disease Control cites it as 4.8 days.

5. Hospitals are performing more outpatient procedures than ever. The AHA does not maintain data about outpatient services before 1965, but from 1965 to 2013, outpatient procedures increased 526 percent. It is one of the only hospital statistics listed by the AHA that does not peak and begin to decrease over time.

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