Cleveland Hospital Systems Expand Despite Weak Economy

This report, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and authored by researchers at the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC), examines the Cleveland health care market, and how competition between the city’s two largest health systems—Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals (UH)—shapes the health and health care of area residents.

The city’s two dominant health systems compete to attract well-insured suburban patients, expand profitable specialty-service lines and win physician loyalty; yet in the end, these efforts contribute to ever-more consolidation of the hospital and physician sectors.

The authors note that the recession—with resulting high unemployment—and rising health care costs continue to strain consumers, employers and health care providers, who are shoulder¬ing more uncompensated care costs. Still, many view health care as one of the region’s strongest economic sectors, with the hope that growth in medical care and research can perhaps replace manufacturing as the area’s economic engine and help turn things around. Others, however, questioned whether the continued competition between Cleveland Clinic and UH will lead to higher health care costs from excess capacity if the hospital systems can’t attract more patients from outside the metropolitan area.

Cleveland is one of 12 communities across the country tracked intensively as part of the Community Tracking Study site visits, which are jointly funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the National Institute for Health Care Reform. HSC has been tracking these communities since 1996.