Study: Care at safety net hospitals lagging

Care at safety net hospitals is of significantly lower quality than hospitals that don't serve the poor and underserved, according to a new study appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study, which looked at data collected between 2004 and 2006 from 3,665 safety-net and non-safety-net hospitals, concluded that hospitals serving a low percentage of Medicaid patients had far more improvement in quality over time than safety-net facilities.

For example, while safety-net hospitals improved heart attack care by 2.3 percentage points, hospitals treating a low volume of Medicaid patients improved heart attack care by 3.8 percentage points, researchers said. Generally speaking, hospitals with a high volume of Medicaid patients saw CMS quality ratings drop from 10.1 percent in 2004 to 2.8 percent in 2006, while non-safety-net hospital ratings climbed from 13.6 percent to 19.7 percent.

To address this gap, the government should offer safety-net hospitals funding specifically targeted to improving care quality, rather than focusing solely on what levels they've already achieved, researchers said.

To learn more about the study:
- read this HealthDay News piece

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