Objective: To assess the effect of hospital discharge against medical advice (AMA) on the interpretation of charges and length of stay attributable to alcoholism.
Design: Retrospective cohort. Three analytic strategies assessed the effect of having an alcohol-related diagnosis (ARD) on risk-adjusted utilization in multivariate regressions. Strategy 1 did not adjust for leaving AMA, strategy 2 adjusted for leaving AMA, and strategy 3 restricted the sample by excluding AMA discharges.
Setting: Acute care hospitals.
Patients: We studied 23,198 pneumonia hospitalizations in a statewide administrative database.
Measurements and main results: Among these admissions, 3.6% had an ARD, and 1.2% left AMA. In strategy 1 an ARD accounted for a $1,293 increase in risk-adjusted charges for a hospitalization compared with cases without an ARD ( p =.012). ARD-attributable increases of $1,659 ( p =.002) and $1,664 ( p =. 002) in strategies 2 and 3 respectively, represent significant 28% and 29% increases compared with strategy 1. Similarly, using strategy 1 an ARD accounted for a 0.6-day increase in risk-adjusted length of stay over cases without an ARD ( p =.188). An increase of 1 day was seen using both strategies 2 and 3 ( p =.044 and p =.027, respectively), representing significant 67% increases attributable to ARDs compared with strategy 1.
Conclusions: Discharge AMA affects the interpretation of the relation between alcoholism and utilization. The ARD-attributable utilization was greater when analyses adjusted for or excluded AMA cases. Not accounting for leaving AMA resulted in an underestimation of the impact of alcoholism on resource utilization.