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Healthcare Insights

Hospital average length of stay by state

Hospital length of stay (LOS) or average length of stay (ALOS) are clinical hospital metrics that can indicate efficiency and/or patient case complexity. Numerous factors can contribute to a patient’s length of stay including comorbidities, patient acuity or case mix, hospital quality performance, or provider staffing levels, among others.

In this Healthcare Insight, we review average length of stay at U.S. hospitals and compare the results by state. We used data on more than 4,400 U.S. hospitals in our HospitalView product for our analysis and the number represents the average number of days a hospital patient is at the facility. Data is sourced from the Medicare Standard Analytic Files (SAF) and aggregated from the most recent 12-month interval tracked in our database.

Only critical access and short-term acute care hospitals with more than 50 patient discharges were included in the analysis to represent the most common types of hospitals in the U.S. and to remove any potential outliers due to low sample size.

Average hospital length of stay by U.S. state


Fig. 1 Data is from the Definitive Healthcare HospitalView product and sourced from the Medicare Standard Analytics Files. Accessed June 2023.

Which state has the lowest average length of stay?

South Dakota and Utah have the lowest hospital average length of stay at 3.3 days. Both of these states have fewer hospital facilities and patient discharges compared to other states, likely contributing to their lower averages.

Which state has the highest average length of stay?

Maryland and the District of Columbia (DC) have the highest average length of stays at 6.1 days and 6.5 days, respectively.

Maryland has the highest average number of patient discharges per hospital compared to other states. It also has a high Medicare payor mix, which can indicate longer lengths of stays for Medicare beneficiaries.

There are only a handful of hospitals in Washington, D.C., many of them academic medical centers that probably see some of the toughest patient cases in the city.

What is the average length of stay at U.S. hospitals?

Across our analysis of 4,405 U.S. hospitals in HospitalView, the average length of stay for hospital patients is 4.5 days.

What is the formula for average length of stay?

In HospitalView, we use data from the Medicare SAF for a given hospital and calculate average length of stay using the following formula:

Total patient days / number of Medicare claims

For the total patient days metric, we use the claim utilization day count field in the SAF. The number of claims considers all inpatient Medicare claims for the hospital.

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