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News : National Author: Staff Editor Last Updated: Sep 7, 2017 - 10:06:33 PM

Data Show Outstanding Results, Narrow Margins for Essential Hospitals

By Staff Editor
Aug 4, 2014 - 10:41:10 AM

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( - The nation's essential hospitals met their core commitment to vulnerable patients in 2012 and also supplied disproportionate levels of vital community services, including trauma, burn, and psychiatric care, and physician training-all while typically operating at a loss, new data show.

The report, Essential Hospitals Vital Data, from America's Essential Hospitals, also shows that while the group's members number about 250 out of more than 5,700 hospitals nationally, they provide 17 percent of all uncompensated care-or about $7.7 billion dollars' worth. 

"Our member hospitals remain cornerstones of community health, not only for the uninsured and other vulnerable people, but for anyone who needs lifesaving services," America's Essential Hospitals President and CEO Bruce Siegel, MD, MPH, said. "They have not wavered from this commitment, even in the face of heavy financial challenges."

The report, the association's annual member characteristics survey, shows that more than half of all members' inpatient discharges and outpatient visits were for uninsured or Medicaid patients, and that about half of patients discharged were racial or ethnic minorities.

America's Essential Hospitals also found that its members in the nation's 10 most-populated cities operate nearly one-third of all level I trauma centers and psychiatric care beds, as well as 38 percent of the burn care beds available to treat the critically injured.

Essential hospitals, those with a safety net role in their community, also trained an average of 219 U.S. medical and dental residents per hospital in 2012-12 times as many as those trained at other U.S. teaching hospitals.

The association, composed entirely of nonprofit hospitals, defines essential hospitals as those having a core commitment to caring for the uninsured and other vulnerable patients and providing services in four other areas: high-acuity care, such as trauma and burn units; health professionals training; comprehensive, coordinated care to communities; and public and population health.

In 2012, America's Essential Hospitals members did all those things with an average operating loss of 0.4 percent, compared with an average 6.5 percent margin for all hospitals nationwide. Without Medicaid disproportionate share hospital payments, a key source of federal support, aggregate member operating margins would have dropped to an 8 percent loss, the association's data show.

"The data clearly underscore the need to maintain strong funding support for these hospitals," Siegel said. "Even with the improving outlook for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, we are a long way off from making these hospitals whole and ensuring they can continue to serve their communities with the same high-quality, comprehensive care they now deliver."

The association also collected data on quality and patient experience measures and found high marks for both among its members. Results from a federal survey of patient satisfaction show 9 out of 10 patients were "satisfied" or "highly satisfied" with their care. The report also shows that in nearly all cases, member hospitals provided all recommended care for heart attack and heart failure patients.

Other notable data points in the association's report include these:

  • Member hospitals delivered nearly 204,000 babies in 2012, with Medicaid paying for 71 percent of those deliveries.
  • Essential hospitals provided non-emergency outpatient care to 41 million patients, averaging 494,054 non-emergency outpatient visits per hospital.
  • Essential hospitals treated more than 7.2 million patients in their emergency departments, averaging 87,047 visits per hospital.
  • Inpatient admissions averaged nearly 22,000 per hospital, roughly three times the inpatient volume of other acute-care hospitals nationwide.

A copy of the full report is available here.

The association's annual report provides a snapshot of short-term, acute care hospitals within its membership. To compare its members with other acute care hospitals nationally, America's Essential Hospitals relies on data from the American Hospital Association's Annual Survey of Hospitals.

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