Do Magnet hospitals have better patient outcomes?

A recent study in Health Affairs found that hospitals recognized for nursing excellence through the Magnet program tend to have better patient outcomes but do not continuously improve after gaining recognition.

"We wanted to see if the Magnet program successfully identified high-performing hospitals, and it does — yet we also found that Magnet hospitals do not improve after they were recognized," said Christopher Friese, PhD, RN, the study's lead author and an assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing.

Dr. Friese and colleagues from the University of Michigan used national Medicare data to study more than 1.9 million surgical patients treated at 993 hospitals during a 13-year period. They compared outcomes in Magnet hospitals with outcomes achieved by hospitals of similar size and geographic location, accounting also for the severity of patients' conditions.

They discovered that Magnet hospital patients were 7.7 percent less likely to die within 30 days of an operation and 8.6 percent less likely to die after a post-operative complication.

However, patient outcomes did not improve for the three years after a hospital earned Magnet recognition, suggesting that the program does recognize hospitals with established nursing excellence but does not correlate with continued improved outcomes.

According to the authors, Magnet hospitals have better outcomes than non-Magnet hospitals because they have "improved organizational hierarchy, nurse empowerment, measure and benchmark quality indicators and have more satisfied nursing staff."

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