Health care is rife with contentious debates involving providers, regulators and policy-makers. Among those, has been the wrangle over whether physician-owned specialty hospitals truly offer improved patient outcomes versus competing general hospitals, or whether they simply siphon off low-risk, well-insured patients.
Previous research on this question examined Medicare data and has found improved outcomes in specialty hospitals. This study aimed to look at the non-Medicare population by using all-payer State Inpatient Data to compare mortality in adult patients admitted with acute myocardial infarction (AMI) or undergoing coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) in specialty cardiac versus general hospitals. Data was used from Texas, California, Arizona and Wisconsin for various years between 2000-2005 due to the number of physician-owned hospitals in these states and the quality of information available. The 10 specialty hospitals included in the study admitted 5,271 AMI patients and 7,520 CABG patients. The 58 general hospitals with which the specialty hospitals competed, admitted 47,138 AMI patients and 34,945 CABG patients.
Despite some limitations in the data and the study, as well as the after-adjustment statistical insignificance of improved outcomes for CABG patients, the authors believe this work adds to the body of research that demonstrates specialty hospitals are able to deliver modest improvements in patient outcomes compared to general hospitals. The researchers think this advantage should be acknowledged and is important to patients, policy-makers and physicians.