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Hospital quality variation matters - a time-trend and cross-section analysis of outcomes in German hospitals from 2006-2014.

Pross C, Geissler A, Busse R
Health Policy 121(8): 842-852


Awareness of care variation and associated differences in outcome quality is important for patients to recognize and leverage the benefits of hospital choice and for policy makers, providers, and suppliers to adapt initiatives to improve hospital quality of care. We examine panel data on outcome quality in German hospitals between 2006 and 2014 for cholecystectomy, pacemaker implantation, hip replacement, percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), stroke, and acute myocardial infarction (AMI). We use risk-adjusted and unadjusted outcomes based on 16 indicators. Median outcome and outcome variation trends are examined via box plots, simple linear regressions and quintile differences. Outcome trends differ across treatment areas and indicators. We found positive quality trends for hip replacement surgery, stroke and AMI 30-day mortality, and negative quality trends for 90-day stroke and AMI readmissions and PCI inpatient mortality. Variation of risk-adjusted outcomes ranges by a factor of 3-12 between the 2nd and 5th quintile of hospitals, both at the national and regional level. Our results show that simply measuring and reporting hospital outcomes without clear incentives or regulation - "carrots and sticks" - to improve performance and to centralize care in high performing hospitals has not led to broad quality improvements. More substantial efforts must be undertaken to narrow the outcome spread between high- and low-quality hospitals.

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