BACKGROUND: It is debatable whether a managed care model would affect the quality of care and length of hospital stay in the treatment of hip fractures in elderly patients. METHODS: This prospective study was undertaken to determine whether or not a managed care critical pathway tool shortened hospital stay in a group of 102 senior patients with fractures of the hip during follow-up. We compared our study findings with two equivalent populations of senior hip fracture patients not treated using a critical care pathway concerning specific markers of quality. RESULTS: The managed care group had a 9% mortality rate, 95% return to prefracture living and 63% return to ambulatory status. The rates compared favorably with previous studies. The quality of care provided before and after the critical pathway was equivalent, while the post-pathway length of stay dropped 30%. CONCLUSIONS: The proposed care protocol is recommended to shorten hospital stay in elderly patients with hip fractures.