WEDNESDAY, Dec. 21, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Pneumonia patients have better outcomes and fewer unnecessary hospitalizations when their doctors adhere to treatment guidelines, a new study confirms.
The year-long study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine included more than 3,200 pneumonia patients at 32 hospital emergency departments in Connecticut and southwestern Pennsylvania.
The emergency departments were randomly assigned as "low-intensity," "moderate intensity," or "high-intensity" sites, reflecting the level of quality improvement activities carried out in each department.
While the moderate- and high-intensity approaches safely increased the number of low-risk pneumonia patients treated as outpatients, the high-intensity strategy increased the proportion of doctors who implemented pneumonia care guidelines in their practices.
"Pneumonia is common, costly and serious, but for patients at lower risk it often can be treated successfully at home, which is what many low-risk patients prefer at 1/20th the cost of hospitalization," study author Dr. Michael Fine, a professor of medicine, said in a prepared statement.
About five million cases of pneumonia are diagnosed each year in the United States, resulting in 86 million days of restricted activity for pneumonia patients and more than $9 billion in health-care costs.
The findings appear in this week's Annals of Internal Medicine.
The American Lung Association has more about pneumonia.