Elderly ICU, hospital patients might survive longer at home, research suggests

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Seniors discharged from hospital or intensive care unit to skilled nursing facilities are significantly more likely to die within six months than those discharged home, according to a new study.

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center analyzed data on 35,308 Medicare patients to determine their survival rates, post-intensive care. At the end of a three-year study period, researchers noted a 39.5% death rate for ICU survivors, compared with a 34.5% death rate among a hospital control group (seniors who had been hospitalized, but not in the ICU). Roughly 33% of the ICU seniors were discharged to a skilled nursing facility, along with 26.4% of hospitalized seniors. The six-month death rate for both groups of seniors discharged to SNFs was 24.1%, compared with a rate of 7.5% for individuals in both groups who were discharged home, according to the report.

The large number of both ICU and hospitalized seniors discharged to SNFs could simply indicate a higher severity of illness, and that the seniors were discharged early from acute care hospitals in order to receive a higher level of care, report authors suggest. This group may have had a better survival rate if discharged home, but may have lacked the necessary support from family and friends, authors also noted. The report appears in the March 3 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.