The idea of micro-hospitals is gaining traction because costs of construction are far lower than that of more traditional hospital facilities –costing anywhere between $7-$30 million, depending on the range of services available, according to Advisory Board statistics. Micro-hospitals can meet 90% of the community healthcare needs. They seem to flourish best in markets with critical service gaps. Ideally, micro-hospitals are located within 20 miles of a full-service hospital, facilitating the transfer of patients to larger facilities if higher-acuity needs arise. Hospital stays anticipated to be longer than 48 hours are sent to higher-acuity facilities.
The Pacific Northwest hospital group may be considered the “golden child” for now, but what happens if profit margins decline and further cutting costs is not feasible? The Jewish Hospital merger experience should serve as a cautionary tale for Kitsap County. Will our beloved community hospital be sold off five years from now or can we escape the same fate by devising a viable alternative for healthcare in our community?
An article published in Health Affairs found seven of the nation’s 10 most profitable hospitals were of the non-profit variety, each earning more than $163 million from patient care services. Revoking their property tax-exempt status for not functioning as a charitable entity could return billions in healthcare dollars to local government, communities, and citizens, struggling to afford quality health care.
As an independent physician in private practice, I care a great deal about our people, our patients, and healthcare delivery in Kitsap County. The fact hospital consolidations do not economically benefit patients is backed by a mountain of scientific evidence. While those in charge may decide merging is ultimately the best course of action, it will be imperative we stand up as a unified community and hold CHI accountable for ensuring the cost savings they have promised materialize.
Studies continually show small clinics provide better quality care for lower cost, have fewer hospital admissions, and keep patients healthier than the hospital-based clinics. We must eliminate the onerous facility fee to level the playing field, eliminate the incentive for hospitals to create monopolies, and save Americans 100s of billions of dollars per year.
There is a growing body of evidence that hospital mergers lead to higher prices for consumers, employers, insurance, and government overall. It is imperative to educate patients and lawmakers as to how the consolidation of hospitals and medical practices raise costs, decrease access, eliminate jobs, and ultimately reduce care quality as a result. Lawmakers should focus on this “first pillar” of cost control as they go back to the drawing board.