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‘Brand Name’ Medical Centers Lead Partnering Trend

Expert sees little value in hospital integrations

Across the country, there has been extensive consolidation of hospitals through mergers and acquisitions with the focus on attracting patients and cutting costs, according to U.S. News & World Report. This, coupled with a decline in readmissions and spending, makes it worthwhile for prospective patients to determine whether the trend of teaming up is only for business and marketing purposes, or is in fact leading to improved performance and care.

Experts believe that “brand name” medical centers and their community counterparts benefit from mergers in different ways. In the case of Suburban Hospital and Sibley Memorial Hospital, members of the Hopkins family located in the District of Columbia, patients will continue to be cared for by local community-based physicians, most of whom are not Hopkins academics, even though they are now part of a group bearing the Hopkins name. However, if patients need more sophisticated care, they have access to top specialists at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Behind the scenes, quality-assurance and performance-improvement procedures designed to upgrade patient-safety procedures on every unit within the Hopkins system have been implemented, targeting such potential risks as patient falls, infections, and drug administration errors.

The Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic are also intent on improving outcomes and the patient experience, although they're branching out in different ways. Rather than accumulating hospitals – Mayo already owns 22, and Cleveland Clinic has 11 – they're building relationships, with the goal of sharing their expertise and opening doors to new research opportunities.

The partnering trend is still young, and it’s difficult to determine whether new partnerships have led to better care.

"I haven't seen any evidence that hospital integrations lead to improvements in quality or cost reductions," said Barak Richman, a Duke University professor of law and business administration who studies hospital partnerships. For one thing, he noted, "you're dealing with medical personnel who crave independence and aren't particularly good at taking directions."

Regardless of the “brand name,” Richman advises prospective patients to ask tough questions and to be wary if hospitals refuse to answer. These questions can include: “How many procedures do you do a year? What are your mortality and complication rates? How long does it take before your patients return to their daily activities?”

Source: U.S. News & World Report; October 5, 2015.

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