Dr. Dale M. Needham, an associate professor of medicine and critical care specialist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said a major barrier to early rehab programs in the ICU were a concern among hospital administrators because of the cost.
"However, our study shows that a relatively low investment up front can produce a significant overall reduction in the cost of hospital care for these patients," Needham, the study's senior author, said in a statement. "Such programs are an example of how we can save money and improve care at the same time."
The Johns Hopkins ICU admits about 900 patients each year. In 2008, the hospital created an early rehabilitation program with dedicated physical and occupational therapists, which added about $358,000 to the cost of care annually.
However, by 2009, the length of stay in the ICU had decreased an average of 23 percent, down from six-and-a-half days to five days, while the time spent by the same patients as they transitioned to less-intensive hospital units fell 18 percent.
Using this financial model, the study authors estimated a net cost saving for the hospital of about $818,000 per year, even after factoring in the up-front costs, Needham said.
The findings are scheduled to be published in the March issue of Critical Care Medicine.