Academic journal article Health Care Financing Review

Health Care Indicators

Academic journal article Health Care Financing Review

Health Care Indicators

Article excerpt


This article presents statistics on health care utilization, prices, expenses, employment, and work hours as well as on national economic activity. Some of these statistics are based on sample surveys conducted monthly or quarterly by Government agencies or private organizations, and are available 1 to 3 months after the completion of the period. They provide the first glimpse at changes occurring within the general economy and the health care sector.

The accompanying tables report selected quarterly statistics for 1989 through the third quarter of 1992 and the calendar year aggregation of quarterly information in the past 3 years. Additional tables show change from the same period 1 year earlier. For quarterly information, this calculation permits analysis of quarterly data to focus on the direction and magnitude of changes, without interference introduced by seasonal fluctuations.

In the national health accounts, indicators such as these play an important role in the estimation of the latest historical year of health care expenditures. Information that is more comprehensive tends to lag behind the close of a calendar year by 9 to 12 months or more. Therefore, we rely extensively on indicators such as these to anticipate and predict changes in health care sector expenditures for the most recent year. Other indicators help to identify specific reasons (e.g., increases in price inflation or declines in utilization) for expenditure change.

In the following sections, we will identify important indicators of health care and national economic activity and their sources. We then describe what these indicators tell us about general economic and health sector activity during the most recent quarter.


Since 1963, the American Hospital Association, in cooperation with member hospitals, has collected data on the operation of community hospitals through its National Hospital Panel Survey. Community hospitals, which comprised over 80 percent of all hospital facilities in the United States in 1990, include all non-Federal, short-term general, and other special hospitals open to the public. They exclude hospital units of institutions; psychiatric facilities; tuberculosis, other respiratory, and chronic disease hospitals; institutions for the mentally retarded; and alcohol and chemical dependency hospitals.

The survey samples approximately one-third of all U.S. community hospitals. The sample is designed to produce estimates of community hospital indicators by bedsize and region (American Hospital Association, 1963-90). In Tables 1 and 2, statistics covering expenses, utilization, beds, and personnel depict trends in the operation of community hospitals annually from 1989 through 1991 and for selected quarters from 1989 through 1992.


For purposes of national health expenditures (NHE), survey statistics on revenues (not shown on Table 1) are analyzed in estimating the growth in the largest component of health care costs--community hospital expenditures. This one segment of NHE accounted for 33 percent of all health spending in 1991 (Letsch et al., 1992). The survey also identifies important factors influencing expenditure growth patterns, such as changes in the number of beds in operation, number of admissions, length of stay, use of outpatient facilities, and number of surgeries.


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) collects monthly information on employment for all workers, and earnings and work hours for non-supervisory workers in a sample of 350,000 establishments. Data are collected through cooperative agreements with State agencies that also use this information to create State and local area statistics. The survey is designed to collect industry-specific information on wage and salary jobs in non-agricultural industries. …

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