Surgeries at high-quality hospitals cost less for Medicare


Surgeries performed at high-quality hospitals cost Medicare less than those performed at lower-quality hospitals, new research has found.

The study, published in Health Affairs, examined costs and outcomes between 2011 and 2012 for five major procedures: coronary artery bypass grafting, pulmonary lobectomy, endovascular repair of abdominal aortic aneurysm, colectomy and hip replacement. The team calculated the cost of the procedures and after care at both the 30-day and 90-day marks for about 100,000 beneficiaries. High-quality hospitals, according to the study, were identified by two factors: 30-day surgical mortality rates and patient experience scores.

The research found that Medicare spent $2,700 less in the first 30-days for patients at high-quality hospitals, and about $2,200 less in 90 days. Most of the savings, according to the study, occurred because patients who were treated at the high-quality facilities used less post-acute care, like rehabilitation or home health services.

“In much of healthcare, better care costs more money but surgery may be one situation in which getting care at a high-quality hospital not only saves lives, but also saves money. And that is a win for everyone,” Ashish Jha, M.D., a professor at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and senior author of the study, said in an announcement of the findings.

The team concluded the research could help direct ways that the industry can reduce healthcare costs via bundled payment models. Future efforts should focus on ways to improve care at lower-quality hospitals to reduce unneeded post-acute care costs, according to the study. 

Jha said in the announcement that the high-quality hospitals had mortality rates that were less than half of those at the lower-quality hospitals, which should also put pressure on lawmakers and industry leaders to make it easier for patients to find quality care facilities.