Thursday, May 23, 2024

The rate of serious medical complications increased in hospitals after they were purchased by private equity investment firms, according to a major study of the effects of such acquisitions on patient care in recent years. The study, published in JAMA on Tuesday, found that, in the three years after a private equity fund bought a hospital, adverse events including surgical infections and bed sores rose by 25 percent among Medicare patients when compared with similar hospitals that were not bought by such investors. The researchers reported a nearly 38 percent increase in central line infections, a dangerous kind of infection that medical authorities say should never happen, and a 27 percent increase in falls by patients while staying in the hospital.

“We were not surprised there was a signal,” said Dr. Sneha Kannan, a health care researcher and physician at the division of pulmonary and critical care at Massachusetts General Hospital, who was the paper’s lead author. “I will say we were surprised at how strong it was.”

Although the researchers found a significant rise in medical errors, they also saw a slight decrease (of nearly 5 percent) in the rate of patients who died during their hospital stay. The researchers believe other changes, like a shift toward healthier patients admitted to the hospitals, could explain that decline. And by 30 days after patients were discharged, there was no significant difference in the death rates between hospitals.

Other researchers who reviewed the study said that while it didn’t provide a complete picture of private equity’s effects, it did raise important questions about the quality of care in hospitals that had been taken over by private equity owners.

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