Medicare quality-of-care data show that when a hospital is taken by another hospital or hospital system, readmission and mortality rates are usually not affected; however, patient satisfaction declines modestly.
Writing in The New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers report on data from 246 hospitals acquired from 2007 through 2013, and extending from two or three years before the acquisition to three or four years after.
In comparison with a control group of 1,986 hospitals that didn’t change hands, obtained hospitals saw their “patient experience” satisfaction score drop from the equivalent of 50th percentile to 41st.
The satisfaction rating was based on patient answers to questions about whether they would undoubtedly recommend the hospital, if the doctor or nurse communicated well, whether they received help when required, and whether they would price the hospital as a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale.
Two commonplace measures of care quality noticed nearly no change. Rates of patient readmission within a month of discharge decreased by 0.1 percentage points, and rates of demise inside 30 days of discharge fell by 0.03 percentage points at the acquired hospitals.
All the hospitals had at least 25 beds and had admitted at least 100 fee-for-service Medicare sufferers a year.
The new evaluation comes less than a month after a report in a special issue of the journal Health Affairs observed that such mergers and acquisitions could reduce access to services for sufferers in remote areas while improving a hospital’s monetary situations.