Transforming Health Care: Volume 19

Cover of Transforming Health Care

A Focus on Consumerism and Profitability


Table of contents

(12 chapters)

Section I Reimbursement, Cost, and Profitability


Bundled payments for care are an efficient mechanism to align payer, provider, and patient incentives in the provision of health care services for an episode of care. In this chapter, we use agency theory to examine the evolution of bundled payment programs in private and public payer arrangements, and postulate future directions for bundled payment development as a key component in the provision and payment of health care services.


This chapter assessed internal and external environmental factors that affect variations in rural hospital profitability with a focus on the impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act regulations that resulted in the expansion of Medicaid eligibility, as well as four Medicare programs that target rural hospitals. A cross section of 2,114 rural US hospitals operating during 2015 was used. The primary source of data was Medicare Hospital Cost Reports. Ordinary least squares regression with correction for serial correlation, using total margin and operating margin as dependent variables, was employed to ascertain the association between profitability and its correlates.

The mean values for operating margin and total margin were −0.0652 and 0.0259, respectively. Hospital profitability was positively associated with location in a Medicaid expansion state, classification by Medicare as a Critical Access Hospital or Rural Referral Center (total margin only), hospital size, system membership, and occupancy rate. Profitability was negatively associated with average length of stay, government ownership, Medicare and Medicaid share of admissions, teaching status, and unemployment rate.

This chapter found that the Medicaid expansions provided modest help for the financial condition of rural hospitals. However, the estimates for the four targeted Medicare Programs (i.e., Critical Access Hospital, Medicare Dependent, Sole Community Critical Access Hospital, and Rural Referral Center) were either small or not significant (p > 0.10). Therefore, these specially targeted federal programs may have failed to achieve their goals of preserving the financial viability of rural hospitals. This chapter concludes with implications for practice.


Public hospitals have long been major players in the US health care delivery system. However, many public hospitals have privatized during the past few decades. The purpose of this chapter was to investigate the impact of public hospitals' privatization on community orientation (CO). This longitudinal study used a national sample of nonfederal acute-care public hospitals (1997–2010). Negative binomial regression models with hospital-level and year fixed effects were used to estimate the relationships. Our findings suggested that privatization was associated with a 14% increase in the number of CO activities, on average, compared with the number of CO activities prior to privatization. Public hospitals privatizing to for-profit status exhibited a 29% increase in the number of CO activities, relative to an insignificant 9% increase for public hospitals privatizing to not-for-profit status.


The hospital industry is again experiencing a wave of consolidation as formerly independent hospitals are acquired by multihospital systems. The effects of these consolidations on operating costs and care quality have been researched extensively. However, in addition to these benefits, many hospitals also hope that joining a multihospital system will improve their access to capital. Improved access to capital could be a particularly important benefit for independent, not-for-profit (NFP) hospitals because these hospitals face capital constraints since they lack access to publicly issued equity. Despite being an often-cited benefit of system membership, access to capital has received little attention from researchers. We draw on financial theory to identify several mechanisms through which system membership might improve access to capital for acquired NFP hospitals. We develop and test hypotheses using data from an earlier period of hospital consolidation during which hospitals were even more financially constrained than they are at present. Using propensity score matched control hospitals, we examine changes in leverage that occurred after independent hospitals joined multihospital systems. We find evidence that system membership allows under-leveraged hospitals to increase their debt holdings, suggesting that system membership may help NFP hospitals attain an optimal capital structure.

Section II The Move Towards Transparency


There is a widespread push by government and private payers to make the prices of health care services more transparent to consumers. The main goal is to promote more effective consumer shopping; secondary goals include promoting provider competition and reducing pricing variation. There are several headwinds opposing these efforts. One problem is that there may be several valid reasons for why price variations persist. Another is that provider (and other health care) markets are not very competitive, and sometimes widespread information about prices may make them even less so. A third is that price discrimination may be economically efficient. Any analysis of price transparency must take the specific market setting into account. This chapter analyzes markets characterized by monopolistic, oligopolistic, and competitive conditions to determine when and under what economic and managerial circumstances price transparency will be useful.


Since Jan. 1, 2019, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' (CMS) rule requiring hospitals publish their “standard charges” (also called “charge description masters” or “chargemasters”) in a public, machine-readable format has been in effect. The research at hand assesses hospital compliance with the federal regulation. In addition, a sentiment analysis of the chargemaster webpages compared to hospital homepages is performed to assess the consumer friendliness of the content in terms of language usage. A stratified sample of 212 hospitals was used to conduct observations. Strata were based on patient satisfaction scores drawn from the Hospital Consumer Assessment of health care Providers and Systems survey, and controls for hospital bed size and geographic US census region were utilized from the American Hospital Association Annual Survey. Descriptive statistics are presented, and chi-square testing is used to test for statistically significant differences. Key results are presented for compliance and sentiment. Most hospitals' websites are not presenting chargemaster data in a way that is readily collectable or comparable to other facilities. In addition, the tone of language used on chargemaster transparency webpages is generally more negative than that of hospitals' homepages. In particular, the messaging on transparency pages routinely suggests consumers to not use the data for decision-making purposes.


Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), many low-income consumers have become eligible for government support to buy health insurance. Whether these consumers are able to take advantage of the support and to make sound decisions about purchasing health insurance likely depends on their knowledge and skills in navigating complex financial products. This ability is frequently referred to as “financial literacy.” We examined the level and distribution of consumers' financial literacy across income groups, using 2012 data collected in the RAND American Life Panel, an internet panel representative of the US population. Low financial literacy was particularly prevalent among individuals with incomes between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level, many of whom will be eligible for health insurance subsidies. In this group, people who are young, less educated, female, and have less income were more likely to have low financial literacy. Our findings suggest the need for targeted policies to support vulnerable consumers in making good choices for themselves, possibly above and beyond the support measures already part of the ACA.


Purpose – The numbers of health care transparency initiatives are increasing. Despite the growing availability of quality data, there seems to be a shortage of evidence about the effects and effectiveness of such initiatives. The aim of this systematic review is to document the effects of transparency, defined as the public release of quality performance data, on hospital care outcomes.

Design/methodology/approach – Through a review of the literature, we chose 46 keywords to use in our searches and focused on empirical studies published in English between 2010 and 2015. The use of combinations of these keywords in searches of four databases (PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, and the Cochrane Library) generated 13,849 publications. The removal of duplicates and exclusion of studies that were not empirical or not relevant to transparency and quality resulted in 39 studies to be reviewed.

Findings – Our review of the literature confirmed the growth of health care transparency efforts, led by the United States, and found mixed results regarding the effects of transparency on hospital care outcomes. For example, mortality, the most frequently researched performance measure (n = 15), exhibited this mixed pattern by having studies showing a reduction (n = 4), increase (n = 1), mixed findings (n = 4), and no significant relationship (n = 6) as a result of public release. We also found a limited number of articles related to unintended consequences of public reporting. When compared with earlier systematic reviews, there seems to be a trend in the reduction of unintended consequences. Therefore, we recommend exploration of this potential trend in future studies empirically.

Practical Implications – The research findings summarized in this systematic review can be used to understand the results of existing transparency efforts and to develop future transparency initiatives that may better enhance hospital quality performance.

Originality/value – This is the latest and most comprehensive systematic review summarizing the effects of transparency of quality metrics on hospital care outcomes.


Occupational injury in the health care sector in the United States rates among the highest of all industries. Specific to hospital support service workers (e.g., Food & Nutrition, Environmental Services), studies have shown that injury rates for support service workers tend to be among the highest of hospital personnel, and yet there is a shortage of research investigating the safety climate of these workers. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to examine safety perceptions of support service workers. Surveys were used to measure safety climate leadership factors (per the AHRQ's Survey of Patient Safety Culture) to determine if they are related to individual safety perceptions, as well as ratings of work unit safety. Following established safety climate research, we examined the role of the work environment (e.g., supervisor support and work unit culture) on safety perceptions. We found that both supervisor and organizational safety leadership are positively related to individual safety perceptions and supervisor support. Organizational safety leadership and work unit culture were positively related to work unit safety rating. Our findings demonstrate that the antecedent factors and pathways that promote a positive safety climate among health care providers functions in a similar manner for support service workers. These findings contribute to a better understanding of occupational safety of this understudied work group and provide evidence to hospital administration that developing a strong safety climate among support service workers is not entirely different from what is required to promote a robust safety climate across an organization.


Public reports of provider-specific patient outcomes aim to help consumers select suppliers of medical services. Yet, in an environment of rapidly changing medical technology and increasingly heterogeneous patient populations, and because they necessarily reflect the experience of other patients who received care in the past, such reports may be of limited value in helping patients forecast the probability of an adverse outcome for each provider they are considering. I propose that providers underwrite insurance policies that promptly pay patients a predetermined sum after an adverse outcome. Patients can use such outcome warranties to infer quality differences among providers easily and reliably. In addition, outcome warranties efficiently reward both providers and patients for reducing the risk of adverse outcomes and thereby improve the safety and affordability of health care. As such, outcome warranties help advance four important goals of health care management: reduction of financial risk, recruitment and retention of physicians, remediation of adverse outcomes, and raising the provider's reputation.

Cover of Transforming Health Care
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Advances in Health Care Management
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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