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 like 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, like 24-hour emergency rooms. Critics have complained that the combination of factors could harm general hospitals ability to subsidize less-profitable services and provide uncompensated care. 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. General hospitals were more likely than safety-net hospitals to feel the impact of the competition, the study said. The study was funded in part by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Physician Faculty Scholars Program. Researcher Peter Cram and four other co-authors conducted more than 40 interviews with leaders, staff and observers in the three markets between March and June 2008.Submit a letter to the Modern Physician Reader Blog. Please include your name, title, company and hometown. Modern Physician reserves the right to edit all submissions.
No ill effects from specialty hospitals, study says
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.