For-profit hospitals readmit more patients, study finds

Patients receiving care in a for-profit hospital are more likely to be readmitted than those in nonprofit or public hospitals, a study from University of Illinois at Chicago researchers found.

The study, published in science journal PLOS ONE, looked at readmission data from the federal Hospital Readmission Reduction Program from 2012 to 2015 for heart attack, heart failure, coronary artery bypass surgery, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and total hip or knee replacement surgery.

The researchers used provider identifiers verified with a CMS report to compare readmission rates and classified hospitals as public, for-profit or nonprofit.

Across all six diseases, the researchers found a statistically significant difference in readmission rates based on hospital type. Hospitals with fewer readmissions than expected, according to a government ratio that accounts for disease severity, were mostly public and nonprofit.

Hospitals with more readmissions than expected were primarily for-profits. For-profit hospitals had the highest mean and median readmission ratios in each category the researchers examined.

Although the study shows a correlation between hospital type and readmission rates, the data does not point to why for-profit hospitals fare worse than nonprofit or public hospitals, the researchers said.

The researchers speculate that the higher readmission rates for for-profit hospitals could be due to their higher taxes and emphasis on maximizing profit that may steer away investments in staff or medical technology.

"This study shows an important national trend to which policymakers, healthcare providers, researchers and patients should pay attention, especially in light of a changing healthcare landscape marked by discussions on reimbursement rates and network consolidations, which are occurring across all types of hospitals," said corresponding author Andrew Boyd, MD.

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