Fears that specialty hospitals would cherry-pick profitable patients and services have not translated into actual financial challenges for the general hospitals that they compete with, according to a new study of three healthcare markets.
However in markets where the two types of hospitals exist side-by-side, the general hospitals did find it more difficult initially to recruit staff and maintain patient referrals and service volumes, according to an analysis of healthcare markets in Indianapolis, Phoenix and Little Rock, Ark., by the Center for Studying Health System Change.
Community hospital officials have long complained that specialty competitors were skimming their profitable service lines such as cardiac and orthopedic care and taking away patients covered by private insurance or Medicare. At the same time, the specialty facilities often do not provide expensive community services, such as 24-hour emergency rooms.
But in the three markets analyzed in the study, researchers found those fears were apparently unfounded. General hospitals reported little, if any, change in patient acuity because of competition with a specialty competitor. In cases where there was a change, respondents usually attributed it to the rising numbers of uninsured patients in the market.