Data Trends

The typical U.S. hospital increased its average length of stay (ALOS) slightly, from a median of 3.25 days in the first quarter of 2010 to 3.29 days in the first quarter of 2011. Although the increase was small, it is notable because it comes after many years of annual decreases. At the beginning of 2006, the median ALOS for all U.S. hospitals was 3.70 days. By the second quarter of 2010, the figure had fallen to 3.17 days. It then rose steadily through 2010 and into early 2011.

Among hospital size and teaching status groups, the 2010-11 ALOS results were mixed. Small and large community hospitals, which traditionally have some of the shortest and longest stays, respectively, saw increases. The change at the smallest hospitals was notable: Their median ALOS grew nearly 4 percent in just one year, rising from 3.00 to 3.12 days. Meanwhile, the large community hospitals saw their median ALOS grow from 3.36 to 3.43 days, an increase of just under 2 percent. Teaching, major teaching, and medium-sized community hospitals, on the other hand, witnessed minor decreases, with drops of about 1 percent, 0.5 percent, and 2 percent, respectively.

Exhibit 1


Exhibit 2


Because the overall trend for all U.S. hospitals has only recently reversed, time will tell whether it will be an ongoing change or is simply a one-year anomaly. 

This report is based on key operational and financial indicators for nonfederal general acute care hospitals that contributed quarterly data to the Thomson Reuters ActionOI® database. Hospital responses were weighted to make the sample comparable to the national distribution of all hospitals based on hospital class, location, ownership, and profitability. For more information, email David Koepke, PhD, at

Publication Date: Tuesday, November 01, 2011

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