Hospitals must decide whether to compete or cooperate with physicians who own specialty facilities, and either choice is potentially dangerous, according to a report in the November/December Health Affairs. One tradeoff to consider is the risk of losing patient volume to the specialty facilities versus the risk of alienating the physicians who are involved, according to the report by researchers for the Center for Studying Health System Change. Hospitals that choose to compete must be able to mimic the advantages of smaller single-purpose facilities owned by physicians, the researchers said. However, they also warned against aggressive regulation to stem the growth of specialty hospitals because data on their impact are inconclusive.
Meanwhile, a second report in the policy journal by several well-known healthcare economists concludes that total U.S. hospital spending will rise 75% between 2002 and 2012, or 4.8% annually. Citing demand and new technology, the economists predicted a larger increase in total hospital spending than the CMS, which has projected a 55% rise over the same period. Abstracts for both studies are available online at www.healthaffairs.org. -- by Patrick Reilly and Tony Fong