In the News: Jan 2–9

Hospital Acquisitions Do Not Produce Better Care

A new Healthcare Finance article highlights a recently published New England Journal of Medicine study showing larger may not necessarily be better for health systems. The study found acquired hospitals have moderately worse patient experience ratings, little to no changes in 30-day mortality and readmission rates, and increased prices for commercially insured patients. While clinical processes seemed to have improved postacquisition, developments were so small researchers could not tie the improvements to the merger itself.

The study looked at 250 hospitals acquired between 2009 and 2013 and compared data results 3 years pre- and postacquisition. These findings are in line with research published in February 2019 also showing that mergers and acquisitions may negatively impact patient satisfaction. Vertical integrations, though, have been shown to improve quality of care for select processes.

Creating a larger footprint, however, is not the only way to grow. For too long, health systems have exploited only a fraction of the potential value available through economies of scale. It is now essential to go further and seize the full range of opportunities scale offers. To learn about various ways to achieve scale, check out the 2019 Sg2 Executive Summit Resource Kit.

Artificial Intelligence Increases Diagnostic Accuracy

A recent New York Times article details how artificial intelligence (AI) can be leveraged to detect breast cancer on mammograms, according to a Google research study. This new system for reading mammograms is one of Google’s many endeavors into the health care imaging market, as the company has already created algorithms to detect lung cancers on CT scans.

When tested on images with a known diagnosis, the AI technology performed with greater accuracy than radiologists. Tests conducted in the US found a 9.4% reduction in false negatives and a decrease of 5.7% in false positives. AI usage has the potential to sort mammograms and flag those that are a priority for radiologists to screen. Next steps in this research involve integrating the tool as part of radiologists’ screening routine to test how well it can perform in a real-world setting.

Harnessing the benefits from AI utilization is revolutionary within modern medicine. Machines do not tire out and are less prone to error than humans. The intention behind AI-medicine integration is to complement the human interface, allowing professionals more time for patient interaction as opposed to data entry. To learn more about the future of AI in medicine, please read the Sg2 Expert Insight RSNA 2018: The AI Will Read Your Images Now.

Patients Near Retail Clinics Use the ED Less

A recent Patient Engagement HIT article highlights how living close to a retail clinic can decrease ED use. A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Princeton University and Northwestern University focused on 2 theories: patients living within 2 miles of a retail clinic will not utilize an ED for low-acuity care and patients living closer to a retail clinic will have fewer ED visits because of their access to preventive care. In general, the theories were correct—rates of ED utilization dropped by 13% for the flu, 12% for sore throats and 10% for eye infections.

As the medical industry continues to address rising costs of health care, the usage of retail clinics can help curb these costs. When patients can access affordable and convenient treatments, it prevents high-acuity visits and more expensive health episodes down the line. By providing improved access to preventive care, retail clinics may also discourage patients from seeking low-acuity treatment in the ED while simultaneously decreasing health care costs.

More than ever before retail clinics are becoming an important piece of the primary care puzzle and will continue to play a large role in the future. To learn more about how health systems can reduce ED utilization and costs by incorporating retail clinics into their overarching primary care strategy, please read the Sg2 report Low-Acuity Sites of the Future: Reconfiguring the Primary Care Puzzle.

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