News Briefs

Does consolidation impact quality?

While a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Synthesis Project concludes that "the balance of evidence" from past studies on hospital consolidation suggests it may raise prices and lower quality, the report also concludes that consolidating facilities may produce cost savings, and recommends further research to learn the effects of insurer market power on provider markets.

In the Feb. 9, 2006, issue of "The Synthesis Project," the foundation reported that consolidation:

  • raised hospital prices by at least 5% — and perhaps much more;
  • produced modest cost savings for merging hospitals;
  • possibly resulted in lower quality.

The report calls the evidence on this latter point "limited and mixed," but did note that the majority of studies find that hospital consolidation does, in fact, lower quality. In fact, it adds, "The strongest studies also show this result."

AHRQ launches web tool for states

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has launched a new interactive web-based tool for states to use in measuring health care quality.

The new State Snapshot web tool is based on the 2005 National Healthcare Quality Report (NHQR) and the 2005 National Healthcare Disparities Report (NHDR), originally released on Jan. 9, 2006, and provides quick and easy access to the many measures and tables of the NHQR from each state’s perspective.

The State Snapshot tool features a special focus on each state’s performance in the treatment of diabetes across three areas: quality of diabetes care, disparities in diabetes treatment, cost savings that states might accrue by implementing disease management for diabetes for State government employees.

To view the State Snapshot tool, go to www.qualitytools.ahrq.gov/qualityreport/2005/state.