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The premier resource for hospital professionals from Relias Media, the trusted source for healthcare information and continuing education.

Can safety net hospitals overcome image problem?

Looks like the safety-net hospitals aren’t so bad, after all.

These facilities – often located in urban areas and serving large low-income and uninsured populations – sometimes get a bad rap due to the waiting rooms clogged with patients, buildings in need of refurbishing, and a less-than-soothing atmosphere. (Dr. Pauline Chen describes a patient’s take on safety-net hospitals in this blog post.) But a study published in Health Affairs in August has found that there are negligible differences in quality of care between safety-net hospitals and non-safety-net institutions.

The study looked at hospitals in 150 cities and compared mortality and readmission rates among fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries for acute myocardial infarction, heart failure, and pneumonia. There was no difference in heart failure mortality between safety-net and non-safety-net hospitals, and differences between myocardial infarction and pneumonia treatment were negligible. For a more accurate comparison, the study was restricted to hospitals in large urban areas, rather than also using data from suburban or rural areas.

And these institutions are showing success despite mounting financial pressure – pressure that could continue to grow if some states opt out of the Medicaid expansion.