Business Decisions That May Hurt Hospital Patients

In their attempts to be more cost efficient and boost their bottom lines, hospitals also may endanger their patients.

Corporations often merge or buy smaller companies.  The goal is to gain more customers while streamlining costs.  America’s healthcare industry is no different.  In St. Louis and other cities, hospital operators have dwindled as healthcare systems merge or purchase other providers.

A new study looked at how hospital mergers and acquisitions affect patient care. It examined patient safety at Harvard-related health facilities across the country, speaking with healthcare providers and hospital administrators.  The authors conclude that these business decisions can indeed jeopardize patient wellbeing.

According to the researchers’ findings, hospital mergers and acquisitions offer three tangible threats to patient care.

More Hospital Patients and Less Staff

First, when hospitals combine and grow, so too do their patient populations. This change in the number and type of patients can put a dangerous strain on healthcare providers.  There may not be enough staff to adequately care for the patient increase.  Also, if a hospital system opens or buys a facility that treats a population it hadn’t before – in terms of demographics or condition – its staff may not be properly trained to handle any new challenges.

Second, when one hospital system purchases another it often introduces new ways of doing things to the acquired hospital staff.  These changes – such as health records software, medical equipment and treatment protocols – may lead to serious medical errors.  The acquired staff may be more focused on finding their way through unfamiliar procedures and less on proper standard of care.

Third, nearly 90 percent of hospitals in the study that expanded required their physicians, especially specialists, to travel to new practice sites.  These specialists include surgeons, cardiologists and obstetricians.

Unfamiliar Settings Lead to Surgical Errors

As with changes in their current facilities, doctors aren’t familiar with healthcare teams and other changed dynamics at new sites.  The specialists have little time to learn or adapt to them while also treating patients, so they often resort to “trial and error” as they go, which can raise the odds for serious surgical errors, for example.

A hospital’s culture matters. When healthcare systems merge, it’s typically for financial reasons, led by those unfamiliar or less concerned with patient safety.  Proper care may not be the number one priority and hospital patients may suffer.

If you lost a loved one while under hospital care, avoidable medical mistakes may have been made during treatment.  An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can investigate on your behalf.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Blog April 20, 2018