More beds linked to more hospitalizations

Amid nationwide efforts to cut down on healthcare waste, a new Michigan State University study finds more hospital beds lead to more utilization and likely higher costs, reinforcing support for certificate-of-need programs to regulate new hospital facilities.

Researchers looked at more than 1 million admissions at nearly 170 hospitals in 2010 in Michigan, a state that requires new hospitals to acquire certificate-of-need approval--the controversial regulation designed to avoid duplicative services in one area. The researchers found a "strong correlation" between bed availability and use.

"I have to believe that some of it is economic pressure from hospital administrators to fill up. If we're talking about a situation where there's a brand new multi-million dollar facility, I'm sure they don't want to have 20 percent of their hospital filled," Paul Delamater, lead author and a researcher in MSU's geography department told, DOTmed News.

In Michigan, "there are too many hospital beds for the population," study authors said yesterday in an announcement. The state has rejected three requests from new hospitals in Oakland Country, although two hospitals did build under special legislative approval. And one hospital system, McLaren Health, is appealing a denial decision for a new hospital in Clarkston.

Until now, policy experts have only speculated the number of hospital beds predicts use, based largely on a study from 1959 that influenced current policy, DOTmed reported. This study may add fuel to the fire and increase state and national regulation that restrict the number of beds and facilities and types of services hospitals can establish.

"Certificate of need curbs unnecessary hospital construction and the higher healthcare costs that creates," Delamater said in the research announcement.

Nationally, 35 states have some form of certificate-of-need approval process, and 28 have regulations on the number of acute care hospital beds.

However, another study found certificate-of-need programs won't curb healthcare costs. Costs for open-heart surgery patients only fell 4 percent in states after deregulating, according to an October 2012 study published in Medical Care Research and Review.

For more information:
- see the PLOS ONE study
- here's the MSU announcement
- read the DOTmed News article

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Study: Certificate of need won't curb healthcare costs