Worst hospitals treat twice as many elderly minority and poor patients as best hospitals

According to a new study led by HSPH’s Ashish Jha, the nation’s 178 so-called “worst” hospitals—the lowest-quality, highest-cost institutions—care for more than twice the proportion of elderly minority and poor patients as the nation’s 122 “best” hospitals, where costs are lowest and quality highest. What’s more, the patients at the worst institutions are more likely than patients elsewhere to die of certain conditions, such as heart attacks and pneumonia.

These hospitals and their patients may be the ones most at risk under new Medicare payment arrangements that could cut payments to hospitals that fail to meet quality standards. “Anytime you have this kind of change there are going to be winners and losers,” Jha told U.S. News & World Report. “The hospitals that are most at risk for coming out on the losing end—the ones that are already faring poorly—are also those who care for the most vulnerable populations.

The study, co-authored by HSPH’s Arnold Epstein, chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management, appears in the October issue of Health Affairs.

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Department of Health Policy and Management