Study faults heart hospital practices

In 2003, the federal government imposed a ban on the opening of new heart hospitals, suggesting that such facilities might be ordering heart procedures for financial rather than clinical reasons. Now, a new study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality suggests that their worries had some foundation. The study, which appears in this week's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, concludes that specialty heart hospitals perform twice as many heart procedures as acute care hospitals with cardiac units. To draw this conclusion, researchers looked at Medicare data from 1995 to 2003, with a special focus on 13 regions where specialty cardiac hospitals opened during the period studied. During the eight-year stretch, the number of procedures done on a non-emergent basis (no heart attack) almost doubled in regions where heart hospitals did business, researchers concluded. CMS has since lifted the ban on heart hospital launches, but has adjusted Medicare payments to take out incentives for excess referrals. CMS also requires physicians to disclose any financial interest in such hospitals to their patients.

To get the details on heart hospital referral patterns:
- read this United Press International item

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