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Practice Ownership Changes Do Not Compromise Patient Responsiveness

Hospital ownership of physician practices can yield benefits, including improved responsiveness to patient needs, University of California researchers have found.

For the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality-funded study, published this past winter in Health Services Research, researchers at the University of California-Berkeley School of Public Health used survey and interview data from roughly 900 physician organizations to understand how ownership transitions affected responsiveness of care.

Researchers used a composite measure of responsiveness, which looked at practice-reported answers to questions about the extent to which the practice:

  • does a good job assessing patient needs and expectations;
  • promptly resolves patient complaints;
  • studies complaints to identify patterns and prevent reoccurrences;
  • uses data from patients to improve care; and
  • uses patient expectation and satisfaction data to develop new services.

These indicators specifically focus on how a practice uses responsive strategies for patient concerns or complaints.

The study compared patient responsiveness between organizations that transitioned to health system ownership with those that remained physician-owned. Researchers controlled for practice size, specialty composition, and market characteristics. Of the organizations in the study, 9 percent transitioned to system ownership.

Researchers found no significant decrease in responsiveness when health systems took over ownership of a practice; in fact, they found a slight increase in responsiveness to patient needs in such cases. The study suggests that practices maintain or improve strategies to allay patient concerns about ownership transfers, with specific attention to the effects of increased network size and changes in specialty care availability.

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About the Author

Katherine Susman is a research associate at America's Essential Hospitals.