Friday, May 8, 2015

When a hospital closes

Kaiser Health News cites a recent study that finds that patients are not hurt when the local hospital closes.  See "Patients Not Hurt When Their Hospital Closes, Study Finds."

Here is a summary statement of the findings -

"While the researchers noted that some people might be inconvenienced by having to travel further for care, they found no significant changes in how often Medicare beneficiaries were admitted to hospitals, how long they stayed or how much their care cost."

One important caveat -

Lead researcher Dr. Karen Joynt said "the researchers had no way of examining whether the health of low-income and uninsured people suffered from the closures, so it was possible those closures did have deleterious effects. The paper looked at Medicare patients because their records are easiest to analyze and compare."

Of particular interest in a map of hospital closures between 2003 and 2011.

Also of interest if the characteristic found by the study -
"The closed hospitals tended to be financially troubled, with revenues averaging 13 percent less than the cost of running the institutions."

Additionally, a third of the closed institutions were safety net hospitals that treated large numbers of the poor and uninsured.
Another finding, keying off another NAHAM News post looking at the closure of Lakewood Hospital in Cleveland - 70 percent of the hospital closures were in urban areas rather than in rural regions, where hospitals have had trouble staying afloat for decades. But the article notes that the impact of a hospital closure in rural areas can be more devasting.

Regarding the findings of the study, Dr. Joynt is quoted by Kaiser Health News -

"It’s possible that we didn’t see any change in outcomes because patients instead went to nearby hospitals that had better finances and may have had more resources to provide care."

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