You’re better off getting treated at a not-for-profit hospital. Unless you qualify for treatment at a VA hospital, in which case you’re the luckiest of all. At least that’s the conclusion drawn by researchers at Harvard who evaluated care for three common conditions at over 4000 hospitals.
The for-profit sector was quick to respond, noting that their access to capital and investment strategies are allowing them to close the gap quickly. But there is a gap.
The study will undoubtedly spur further debate as to which type of delivery system delivers the best care, a debate well worth continuing. What we need to add is a consideration of cost. Without evaluating the cost of care delivered the debate is not as useful nor as important. If the not-for-profits do a better job of treating COPD, but cost five times as much per patient, the extra “quality” may not be worth the additional cost.
Also missing from the report is the impact of the delivery systems’ practices on the functionality of the patient. While it is academically interesting to know which system met more of the clinical objectives, consumers may want to know how many patients resumed their full functionality after treatment.
For patients, it is not about the two-dimensional world of clinical criteria. It is about the health care system’s ability to help them live fully.
The full study is available here.