Health Care Cost Institute reports put focus on hospital cost-cutting practices

New reports released this week by the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI) conclude that hospitals and other providers take non-traditional approaches to delivery of services in order to reduce costs.

The most significant finding linked to the hospital community is a study conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago that concluded affiliations among oncology practices with hospitals is driving up costs, primarily due to the imposition of new facility fees. A single percentage point increase in the proportion of providers affiliated with hospitals or hospital led to a 34 percent increase in average per person annual spending and a 23 percent increase in the per person price of treatment, according to the study.

Rapidly rising costs for treating cancer patients has created a growing concern that many patients cannot afford such care. Even insured patients often face six-figure bills for their care. Moreover, facility fees have been a bone of contention for both patients and insurers.

Another study conducted by researchers at the University of Washington and George Washington University found that providing patients who have lower back pain with unrestricted access to physical therapy--as well as visits early on in treatment--led to a reduction in hospital visits, imaging and the use of opioid medications.

A third study by researchers at the University of California at San Francisco has concluded that nurse practitioners with an expanded scope of practice drive down primary care costs by as much as 4 percent, but drove up overall healthcare costs by the same percentage. The consensus is that nurse practitioners may soon be filling the yawning gaps being created by a growing shortage of primary care physicians.

"Currently, we have limited information on the effects of reforms happening at the state and national levels," said HCCI Senior Researcher Amanda Frost in a statement. "We believe that this data-driven research will build a knowledge base about the changing healthcare landscape."

To learn more:
- read the HCCI statement 
- check out the cancer patient study (.pdf)
- here's the physical therapy study (.pdf)
- read the nurse practitioner study (.pdf)