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Hospitals and private equity: A dangerous mix for patients?

On Behalf of | May 8, 2024 | Medical Malpractice |

Most people don’t think about who owns the hospital they’re in and how that could affect their level of care. Many are owned by large corporations that run regional or nationwide networks of health care facilities.

It’s becoming more common, however, for private equity firms to buy hospitals. By doing so, they help financially struggling hospitals – often in underserved areas –stay open. Some have questioned, however, whether a business whose goal is solely to make a profit to own a hospital (something that’s often unknown to the public) should be dedicated to doing what’s best for patients?

The medical journal JAMA recently published a study that looked at whether “adverse events” are more common in hospitals owned by private equity firms than in other hospitals. Here’s a brief look at what was discovered.

The most common adverse events

The hospitals studied that were purchased by private equity firms had an increase in adverse events of 25% within three years compared to those not owned by a private equity firm. The largest increases included the following:

  • Central line infections (involving central venous catheters) rose by almost 38%.
  • Patient falls rose by 27%.
  • Bedsores rose by 25%.

Adverse events – particularly preventable ones — are often the result of understaffing. One researcher in the study said, “Reductions in staffing after acquisition could explain all of these findings.” 

Fatality rates 

The study didn’t find a significant increase in the fatality rates in hospitals owned by private equity firms for patients in the hospital or those within three months after discharge. Unlike adverse events, hospital fatality rates typically are tied to patients’ condition and health rather than quality of hospital care.

Adverse events can be relatively minor or extremely serious – and everything in between. If you or a loved one has been harmed by an adverse event you believe was preventable, find out more about whether you have grounds for a malpractice claim.