How do health care mergers & acquisitions impact patients? What are the steps to be taken care by hospital management?

Hospitals and health care systems are making merger and acquisition moves to implement value-based care to improve quality and outcomes for patients.  Increasingly, larger organizations are exploring mergers which results in transformative changes in their healthcare system. These changes include the ability to manage the health of populations, reduce the cost of care, and introduce innovations.

What do consolidation of healthcare systems mean for patients?

A hospital merger would increase access to capital and other resources for many healthcare organizations, which would in turn improve costs for patients. Some of the positive impacts include –

  • New capabilities for a value-based, consumer-oriented health system, such as data analytics, care coordination across the continuum, retail or urgent care centers, and telehealth.
  • Hospital consolidation improves efficiency, access to care and quality of care. For example, when a smaller hospital merges with a larger, better-equipped hospital system, patients at the smaller hospital may acquire better access to specialists and to advanced medical technologies.
  • Merging hospitals also help patients to move towards more robust options in accessing care. Mergers typically expand the scope of services available to patients and build upon existing institutional strengths to provide more comprehensive and efficient care.
  • When two entities merge, they more than likely streamline certain protocols, which can lead to enhancements and standards of quality care. Furthermore, mergers can reduce the occurrence of patients undergoing a procedure at an organization with limited experience in that area
  • Healthcare professional may also find benefits in the form of shareable EMRs, creating a coordinated patient care and alleviating administrative burden. Benefits also include extending their reach into the community and capturing more of the care continuum.
  • Some of the other possibilities are increasing market share, improving cost position for efficiency, moving into another product category, acquiring talent and global expansion.

Adapting patient care to mergers & acquisitions

There are no signs that the pace of hospital mergers and acquisitions will slow in the coming years. As healthcare systems continue their mergers and acquisitions, it will be essential that the management consider the impact on patients and design integration models that will not negatively affect the patients. Hospital managements and leaders should have a broad understanding of the sources of risk to patient safety and find solutions for them in advance. Goals and responsibility for safety and quality are should be clear and communicated to all employees. After an expansion, a health care institution’s patient population may change.  Hospitals should make adjustments for these changing patient demographics such as training staff, especially those who interact with the new population. Prioritizing the patient experience and incorporating planned support to patients are practices every health care system should incorporate into planning, during a merger or acquisition.

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