Independent hospitals fight consolidation trend

Despite the trend of healthcare consolidation, several independent general hospitals remain in the greater Philadelphia region and intend to stay that way, reported The Philadelphia Inquirer. Even with weaker revenue growth and smaller profit margins, the chief executives of these community hospitals are fighting to remain independent.

"They like the idea of being able to control the strategic priorities," although "recognizing that it's a pretty tough landscape," Michael J. Duncan, CEO of Chester County Hospital, told the Inquirer.

The merger holdouts contend that consolidation isn't necessary for improved care and that hospitals can reach the highest levels of healthcare quality as independents.

Ignoring quality and efficiency, most mergers stem from "an economic decision that's premised on the pressure the providers can put on the insurers" to get better rates, according to Doylestown Hospital CEO Richard A. Reif.

Meanwhile, hospitals in Massachusetts remain weary of consolidations, extending merger talks, according to to the Winchester Star. Winchester Hospital has been discussing a possible partnership with Hallmark Health System since last summer, with no end to the discussions in sight.

The hospitals still are questioning whether consolidations will actually help patients. Although mergers lead to shared resources and skills, they also result in competition and more market dominance for fewer providers, Mass. Council of Community Hospitals Executive Director Donald Thieme pointed out.

"The pendulum had swung too far to independents before, and fragmentation," Thieme told the Winchester Star. "Now the pendulum is swinging the other way. The question is if it swings too far."

Efforts to resist the consolidation trend follow new research from the U.K., indicating that mergers are not the most effective way to handle hospitals that are performing poorly in quality or costs.

To learn more:
- read the Philadelphia Inquirer article
- here's the Winchester Star article