Skip to main content

Average Inpatient Stay Costs More than $22,000

Analysis  |  By Alexandra Wilson Pecci  
   January 22, 2019

That hefty price tag means that the United States exceeds every other nation in total healthcare costs.

The average outpatient visit in the United States costs nearly $500, and the average inpatient stay cost more than $22,000.

That's according to a global study from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington that included outpatient data from 130 countries and inpatient data from 128 countries.

"Before our research, there were global estimates of health spending, health resources like hospital beds per 1,000 population, and burden of disease, but not health services," Marcia Ruth Weaver, PhD, research professor at IHME and one of the study's co-authors, told HealthLeaders via email.

Among the study's goals were to produce the first global estimates of the number of outpatient visits and inpatient admissions per country, and to update global estimates of the unit costs of visits and admissions.

The researchers found that the United States exceeds every other nation in total healthcare costs.

They also found that globally, visits per person and admissions per person increase with age, beginning around age 25 for visits, and age 50 for admissions.

When comparing utilization by gender, the researchers found higher utilization among females during reproductive years.

A key takeaway, Weaver said, is that the health sector is growing.

"There was a 59% increase in visits globally from 1990 to 2016 and 68% increase in admissions," Weaver said. "The sources of growth were increases in population, population aging when utilization increases with age, and higher utilization rates."

Hospital executives can also apply these findings to how they do business.

"Hospital executives should examine these sources of growth within their organizations: the size of the patient population, the age composition of their patients, and utilization rates," Weaver said. "Expanded insurance coverage could affect each of these sources of growth."

The study also aimed to "identify health systems that efficiently reduce mortality and morbidity, and use them as a standard to estimate what it will take to provide universal health coverage," Weaver said.

The researchers identified the Netherlands has the nation where the combination of visits and admissions at the health system level "achieved universal health coverage at lower costs than other combinations."

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders.

Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.