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Hospital volume and mortality for 25 types of inpatient treatment in German hospitals

observational study using complete national data from 2009 to 2014

Nimptsch, Ulrike; Mansky, Thomas

Objectives To explore the existence and strength of a relationship between hospital volume and mortality, to estimate minimum volume thresholds and to assess the potential benefit of centralisation of services. Design Observational population-based study using complete German hospital discharge data (Diagnosis-Related Group Statistics (DRG Statistics)). Setting All acute care hospitals in Germany. Participants All adult patients hospitalised for 1 out of 25 common or medically important types of inpatient treatment from 2009 to 2014. Main outcome measure Risk-adjusted inhospital mortality. Results Lower inhospital mortality in association with higher hospital volume was observed in 20 out of the 25 studied types of treatment when volume was categorised in quintiles and persisted in 17 types of treatment when volume was analysed as a continuous variable. Such a relationship was found in some of the studied emergency conditions and low-risk procedures. It was more consistently present regarding complex surgical procedures. For example, about 22 000 patients receiving open repair of abdominal aortic aneurysm were analysed. In very high-volume hospitals, risk-adjusted mortality was 4.7% (95% CI 4.1 to 5.4) compared with 7.8% (7.1 to 8.7) in very low volume hospitals. The minimum volume above which risk of death would fall below the average mortality was estimated as 18 cases per year. If all hospitals providing this service would perform at least 18 cases per year, one death among 104 (76 to 166) patients could potentially be prevented. Conclusions Based on complete national hospital discharge data, the results confirmed volume–outcome relationships for many complex surgical procedures, as well as for some emergency conditions and low-risk procedures. Following these findings, the study identified areas where centralisation would provide a benefit for patients undergoing the specific type of treatment in German hospitals and quantified the possible impact of centralisation efforts.
Published in: BMJ Open, 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-016184, BMJ Publishing Group