A University of Iowa study on controversial “specialty hospitals” finds the facilities might not be any better than regular hospitals. Doctor Peter Cram studied the hospitals that specialize in cardiology. He says the specialty cardiac hospitals appear to be admitting healthier and wealthier patients than their competing general hospitals. He says the specialty cardiac hospitals are performing on-average more bypass and angioplasties per year than their competing hospitals. Cram says his study didn’t find a lot of difference between the specialty and general hospitals.He says the specialty cardiac hospitals do not perform statistically significantly better when you take into account they’re admitting healthier patients and performing more procedures. Dr. Cram says the findings go against the premise for such hospitals. He says, “The idea was is that if the hospital focused on one particular type of patient and one particular type of disease, that they could deliver better care, meaning maybe lower mortality rates, maybe at lower cost.” Cram says his study didn’t delve into why healthier and wealthier patients were going to specialty hospitals. He says one possibility is that healthier patients when they have a choice go to the specialty hospital, or he says it could be that the hospitals are recruiting patients. But he says they don’t know if that’s happening. Cram says said that because the study was limited to analysis of length of stay and mortality, it is possible that specialty cardiac hospitals do better in other respects, compared to general hospitals. He says the best advice is to research the quality of hospitals before you chose to have a procedure done. He says it’s “well studied that the more bypass surgeries or the more angioplasties that a hospital does, on average the hospital has lower mortality rates.” He says that doesn’t hold for every hospital, but it’s a fair rule of thumb. Cram co-authored the study with U-of-I colleague Doctor Gary Rosenthal. Their study appears in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
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