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Hospital length of stay declined steadily during the 1970s, then rapidly during the early years of the Medicare Prospective Payment System (PPS). This study examines these trends in hospital length of stay for Medicare patients between 1979 and 1987 for all cases combined, for medical and surgical cases separately, for different geographic regions, for surgical procedures grouped according to organ system, and for the highest-volume surgical procedures. The rate of decline in length of stay varied across procedures but was relatively uniform across geographic regions during this period. The mix of surgical procedures performed on an inpatient basis changed substantially, primarily because of changing technology and greater use of outpatient surgery.

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