A new study to be published tomorrow in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) finds that hospitals profit when patients have complications during surgery. According to a report in the Washington Post's Wonkblog, this counter-intuitive finding is a function of the payment structure in our nation's health care system. Hospitals earn money for every procedure done, even if that procedure is necessary to correct an error that occurs during surgery.
It's for just this reason,according to Olga Yakusheva, Douglas Wholey and Kevin Frick, that it has been so difficult to make a business case for investing in nursing care. In their article in the INQRI Medical Care supplement published last month, the INQRI researchers point out that because investments in nursing care improve patient outcomes, they hurt hospitals' bottom line. The authors go on to suggest that the roll out of the Affordable Care Act, which includes penalties for high rates of hospital acquired infections among, will help to address this confounding issue. They, like the authors of the JAMA study, also encourage taking more aggressive steps to make health care payments outcome-based, rather than service-based.
According to the Post blog, the JAMA study found that a hospital's profit margin jumped from $16,936 to $55,953 when there was a surgical complication.