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Study: Hiring more hospital-employed physicians doesn’t necessarily improve care

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Hospital ward in 16th Century France.

An analysis published online by the Annals of Internal Medicine found that hospitals hiring more physicians doesn’t necessarily lead to better care.

The study found no link between hiring more physicians and changes in mortality rates, 30-day readmissions, length of stay or patient-satisfaction rates.

“Although some of these improvements certainly are taking place as hospitals increasingly employ physicians, on the basis of the hospital performance metrics we examined, we found no national-level evidence that these changes have translated into better patient care,” the authors said.

The researchers compared 803 acute-care hospitals in the U.S. that switched to an employee relationship with their physicians with 2,085 hospitals with unaffiliated or contractual relationships with their physicians to see if   care improved.

Fierce Healthcare noted: “Researchers for the latest study said the rationale behind increased hospital employment is that the new relationships will lead to greater care coordination, more closely aligned incentives and better patient care. However, up to two years after converting to an employment model, there was no improvement in the four quality metrics. Researchers said it could be that beneficial effects may take longer to appear. The only exception was that hospitals that switched to employed physicians had lower rates of readmissions for pneumonia.”

The findings suggest that physician employment alone probably is not  enough to improve hospital care. The researchers recommended that hospitals focus on boosting clinical integration and otherwise improving patient care instead of proceeding as if better care can be achieved simply by hiring more physicians.

Hospitals that have switched to a model  in which many or most of the physicians  working there are employed are more likely to be larger and teaching hospitals — and more expensive.

To read the analysis, please hit this link.

To read FierceHealthcare reporting on this, please hit this link.

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