Are Consolidated Healthcare Systems Really Better for Patient Care?
For most people in Arkansas, the days of seeing their regular doctor in a small, physician-run office are long gone. Now, when we seek medical care, we are frequently sitting in the waiting room of a larger, corporate-run healthcare system.
While there are purported benefits to the consolidation of the medical and healthcare system in the United States, the transition to a system largely run with profits in mind has not been without its downsides.
If you’ve recently transitioned to a larger health system for your care, were injured by a doctor, or lost a loved one because of a medical error, the answer to this question may be very important for you.
What Are Consolidated Healthcare Systems?
When two or more healthcare companies combine via acquisition or merger, it creates a consolidated healthcare system. Where before, there might have been two, three, four, or even more different healthcare groups operating independently, consolidation results in these groups combining into one larger system.
The benefits of consolidated healthcare systems are touted as:
- Standardization of clinical practices and protocols
- Improved access to care
- Shared capital and resources
- Enhanced efficiency
- Reduced duplication of services
Patients who are treated within consolidated healthcare systems are promised a variety of other benefits, including shorter wait times for diagnostic testing and faster referrals to specialists. However, it is increasingly clear that the promise of consolidated healthcare is not all that it was promised to be.
The Higher Costs of Consolidated Health Systems
Patient costs in consolidated health systems are significantly higher than in non-consolidated healthcare groups. According to “Examining the Impact of Health Care Consolidation,” medical costs increase an average of 20-30% after consolidation, with prices going up as much as 50% in some places. Hospitals that operate within academic or otherwise large systems are known to charge the highest prices.
So what’s the driving force behind these dramatic price increases? Experts point to a lack of competition. Physicians who have less competition are more likely to charge higher prices for their services, and many physicians within a consolidated healthcare system have relatively little competition.
This lack of competition also gives large, consolidated systems greater bargaining power with insurance companies. When there isn’t another hospital or doctor’s office around that is willing to accept less for the same or similar treatments, these facilities have the leverage to charge larger, more exorbitant prices for what isn’t always better care.
Consolidated systems also drive up healthcare costs in the surrounding area. Nearby competitors increase prices by about 8% when a consolidation occurs.
Is Patient Care Better in Consolidated Health Systems?
With increased access to a greater number of health care professionals and increased spending, Arkansas patients may expect to receive superior care when being treated in a consolidated system. Unfortunately, the opposite tends to be true.
“Examining the Impact of Health Care Consolidation” also addresses patient health outcomes in markets with a great number of consolidated facilities and less overall competition. In these markets, patient health outcomes are generally worse than in areas with fewer consolidated systems and greater competition between facilities. Specifically, patients who seek treatment from hospitals with less competition have a 4.4% higher chance of dying, which amounts to about 2,000 deaths per year. Readmission rates are also higher in these hospitals.
This same trend can be seen in physician-provided care. Compared with their peers who have significant competition within their respective markets, cardiologists who face little professional competition typically have higher patient mortality rates.
Medical errors that may be more likely to occur within a corporate or consolidated healthcare system include:
- Missed or delayed diagnosis
- Surgical errors
- Over or under treatment
- Medication errors
- Adverse drug events
- Anesthesia errors
- Health care record errors
- Communication errors
- Patient misidentification
In some large healthcare systems, patient misidentification happens with shocking regularity, often to disastrous ends.
Do Most Doctors Work in Consolidated Healthcare Systems?
The majority of people in Arkansas and across the rest of the United States have little to no choice but to seek medical care at a consolidated healthcare facility. According to Healthcare Dive, “75% of doctors worked for hospitals, health systems or corporate entities in 2022,” representing a 6% increase from the year before. In 2021, only 69% of doctors worked within these systems.
If your doctor is part of a larger corporate or consolidated health system, you may be paying more for lower-quality care.
Legal Options if You Were Injured in a Consolidated Healthcare System
If your doctor’s negligence caused you to suffer an injury or to develop a new or worsening health condition, you may be entitled to compensation for your resulting damages. In Arkansas, filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is the legal remedy afforded to victims who have been harmed by healthcare professionals.
A medical malpractice lawsuit allows you to hold the party or parties who injured you responsible for their actions, securing both a sense of justice as well as compensation that covers your economic and non-economic damages.
Economic Damages in a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
Economic damages refer to the financial losses you have incurred as a result of your injury or illness. In a medical malpractice lawsuit, economic damages may include the cost of:
- Hospital stays
- Physical or rehabilitative therapy
- Prescription medications
- Transportation to and from medical appointments
- Doctor office visits
- Appointments with specialists
- Adaptive medical equipment
- In-home health aides
- Psychiatric or mental health care
- Lost wages
- Future lost earnings
Don’t throw away any bills or invoices that you receive for your medical care. Keep a copy of every document that illustrates the financial impact that your injury or illness has had on your life. An attorney from McMath Woods P.A. will review this information when determining how much you may be owed for your financial losses.
Non-Economic Damages in a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
Arkansas civil law also acknowledges that not every loss suffered by another person’s negligence is financial. Your non-economic losses encompass all of the other ways your life has been negatively affected by a doctor’s negligence. Your non-economic damages in a medical malpractice claim may include:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of reputation
- Loss of enjoyment in life
Compared to economic damages, non-economic damages can be more challenging to calculate and easier to dispute. Having the backing of an experienced attorney will improve your chances of securing the total compensation to which you are entitled.
We’re the Trial Lawyers Who Care
The average medical malpractice claim can be deceptively complex. When you file a medical malpractice lawsuit against a doctor or nurse who works in a large consolidated or corporate healthcare system, you are not just going up against one or two people—you are facing off with an entire network that has the legal backing of attorneys and insurers. At every turn, the insurance company will attempt to discredit your claim. We won’t let that happen.
McMath Woods P.A. is proud to represent injury victims in Arkansas.
Our attorneys have dedicated their legal and professional careers to advocating for those who have been harmed by another person or entity. To learn how we can put our years of experience to work for you, contact our law office for a no-cost, no-risk case evaluation. A lawyer is standing by to speak with you.
Arkansas Motorcycle Laws