According to new findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, hospitals that make surgical errors actually see an increase in their profit margins due to the longer hospital stays and additional medical care necessitated by such mistakes.
The study examined more than 34,000 people who had surgery in 2010 at one of the Texas Health Resources group’s dozen hospitals. The hospital saw a 330 percent increase in profits from privately insured patients who experienced complications related to surgical errors, and a 190 percent increase in profits from patients with Medicare who suffered error-related complications. Dr. Barry Rosenberg, a co-author of the study, stated, “This research provides dramatic evidence that hospitals lack financial incentives to invest in improving surgical quality.”
Susan Pisano, spokeswoman for the trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans, suggested the nation’s healthcare system needs to move away from existing models that encourage hospitals to place value on a greater volume of patients rather than a higher standard of care. Pisano also pointed out that many insurers, including both Medicare and private groups, have already begun updating their policies to list surgical errors as an item they will no longer cover. These surgical errors include leaving foreign objects inside the patient and operating on the wrong body part.
Approximately $400 billion is spent annually on surgery in the United States. On average, patients who had one or more complications provided the hospital with $49,400 in revenue. Those who did not only brought in $18,900.