Study: Ill elderly not necessarily better off in hospitals

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Hospitals that use intensive approaches to treat ill elderly patients at a higher cost to Medicare don't get better results, according to a new study by researchers at the Dartmouth Medical School.

Some patients with chronic illnesses use many more resources without better healthcare outcomes, according to the study. The Dartmouth Atlas Project examined records for Medicare enrollees who died between 2000 and 2003 and had at least one of 12 chronic illnesses, such as cancer, congestive heart failure or chronic lung disease.

The Dartmouth Atlas Project concluded that Medicare could cut spending on chronic care by as much as 30% if all hospitals used less intensive approaches. Researchers also indicated that care could be delivered less expensively and be better managed in other care settings beside the hospitals, such as nursing facilities in some instances. The study report also suggests the need for a complete overhaul of how chronic illnesses are managed and treated in the nation's healthcare system.