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Dartmouth Physician Executive Says Hospital Mergers Will Benefit Patients, Curb Waste

He Sees Benefits Where Others See Loss of Competition

John D. Birkmeyer, M.D., executive vice president of integrated delivery systems at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, believes hospital mergers will benefit patients by consolidating medical records and improved care coordination while trimming back unnecessary costs and treatments along the way.

The conventional wisdom is that consolidation could limit access and reduce competition, according to FierceHealthCare. But in a piece for the Harvard Business Review, Birkmeyer argues that mergers can help eliminate “the persistent problem of variation in health care practice and outcomes, particularly in surgery.” Recent research shows that thousands of Americans whose surgeries are performed by low-volume surgeons and hospitals die unnecessarily every year, he says.

Birkmeyer says hospitals should adopt a “volume pledge” that will include 10 complex procedures "for which scientific evidence shows that surgical volume matters.” Those procedures would be off-limits to surgeons who don’t perform a certain number of them each year.

The merger of hospitals into large groups would make it easier to adopt and enforce these guidelines, he says. Standardization of care across hospitals would also help improve the quality, in Birkmeyer’s view.

Source: FierceHealthcare, October 1, 2015

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