The study, done by doctors with Harvard Medical School, found that complications that arise from surgeries and other medical procedures could actually help boost a hospital’s bottom line. Specifically, the study found that infections and strokes that result from medical procedures are more than twice as beneficial to a hospital, in financial terms, than if an operation goes off without a hitch.
Researchers combed through records associated with more than 30,000 different surgical operations performed by doctors at the Texas Health hospital network, based in Dallas. The study found that on average, those procedures that ended in complication made the hospital nearly $16,000. Surgeries that went perfectly only resulted in $7,600 in net profit for the hospital system. The authors also noted that some specialties were more lucrative than others, specifically spinal surgeries, brain surgeries and cardiothoracic procedures.
The people behind the article say their intention in studying the matter was to reveal just how hard a problem reducing medical complications can be when hospitals have a very real incentive not to make even simple changes. The authors say they first got the idea to investigate finances after being puzzled why so few hospitals had implemented simple procedures like a surgical checklist, which had been shown to dramatically reduce instances of surgical error. They thought that money might have something to do with it and they were right.
Though solving such a complicated problem will require lots of work and effort on the parts of many, the authors believe one basic change that should be made is to alter the way insurance companies reimburse hospitals. The study suggests that tying payment to surgical outcomes is one way of creating an incentive for hospitals to change. If payment were contingent upon complication-free surgeries, then there would be a real reason for doctors to work hard to reduce complications. The 100,000 people that are estimated to die each year from medical complications is already far more than it should be, hopefully changes can be made that bring this number down to earth.
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Source: “Improving Quality Patient Outcomes a Money Loser for Hospitals,” by Evan Albright, published at Forbes.com.