While healthcare facilities are often seen as places where people can get treated, people should not forget that they are a business as well.
In fact, the healthcare market reached a valuation of around $8,452 billion in 2018, having grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.3% since 2014. It is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.9% to nearly $11,908.9 billion by 2022.
Seeing that healthcare facilities are places of business, it comes as no surprise that acquisitions and mergers occur in the industry as well. As a matter of fact, not only are acquisitions and mergers present in the healthcare industry, they are also on the rise. Studies show that in 2017, healthcare mergers were up by 13% than the previous year, and still growing.
While these acquisitions and mergers are all happening behind closed doors and boardrooms, with the help of specialized healthcare mergers and acquisition advisory firms like Stoneridge Partners, a major stakeholder is left concerned: what happens to the patients?
Are patients affected by these types of deals? This article will discuss all about how healthcare mergers affect patients.
Impact of Healthcare Mergers on Patients
First, do healthcare mergers affect patients?
The answer to that question is a resounding yes. Fortunately, reports have shown that healthcare mergers can actually be quite beneficial to patients.
Here are a few ways healthcare mergers can affect patients.
One benefit of healthcare mergers is that patients can actually have continued care. Most often, small independent hospitals or clinics that are not able to operate on their own are being acquired by larger healthcare corporations. While this may seem like a loss for the board members of the small hospital, this is actually for the benefit of the patients.
When a small independent hospital or clinic is unable to operate due to a wide variety of reasons (e.g., debt, lack of resources, lack of specialized doctors, etc.), they have to refer their patients elsewhere. While this may seem just like a slight inconvenience to some, this can be more serious to others. Particularly those admitted in critical condition for example.
Merging with a larger healthcare corporation provides the smaller hospital or clinic the necessary resources to continue to operate. This then avoids having its patients go through a transitional phase going to a new provider and all the stress that comes along with the transition.
Mergers can also keep patients in the acquired healthcare facility. Smaller independent hospitals and clinics are often not equipped with all the necessary departments that a larger hospital would have. This means that if a patient’s treatment is out of their capacity, they would have to refer them somewhere else.
Merging with a larger healthcare facility would give the possibilities of adding more departments to the acquired clinic, or the patients can then easily be transferred to other hospitals or clinics within the network of the acquiring healthcare company.
Fortunately for the patients, there is a chance that healthcare acquisitions and mergers can mean less out-of-pocket expenses for them. Even with health insurance, patients sometimes still have to shell out out-of-pocket for expenses that may not be covered by their health insurance provider or their health insurance plans.
Health insurance plans are especially specific and patients might not be able to have their insurance providers cover the cost for small details such as going to a hospital out of the insurance provider’s network, or having an operation with a doctor who is out of the insurance provider’s network.
Out-of-pocket expenses are even worse for people who have to go to healthcare facilities without insurance. It has been studied that prices for products in a healthcare facility are being offered at a premium. While this increased cost mostly affects health insurance providers, the inflated costs are the same to people without health insurance.
Luckily, healthcare acquisitions and mergers might be able to lower the costs of these out-of-pocket expenses. Usually, larger corporations and companies are able to deal with lower prices from their sources since larger entities buy more of the supplies in bulk.
Being merged with one of these larger entities, the acquired healthcare facility then might be able to access these sources at a much lower price - thus, having the possibility of them also lowering their prices to patients.
Improved Quality Access
Another significant advantage to patients is that healthcare acquisitions and mergers would be able to provide patients access to higher quality care. For example, a person in need of a special surgery might have to rely on the hospital’s best surgeon. However, healthcare mergers might be able to share their resources - including their staff.
This would highly benefit that individual if the surgeon from the larger healthcare company has a better reputation or experience with that particular type of surgery.
Sharing resources can also go beyond the availability of doctors to patients. Even if the larger healthcare corporation allows the acquired hospital or clinic to operate under their own name, the acquisition is publicly known. This means that in order to maintain their high reputation, the purchasing company has to allocate resources to the acquired healthcare facility to reach its own standard. For example, the larger company might provide newer equipment and add more departments to the hospital or clinic they acquired.
Another factor that might change during a healthcare merger is that the acquiring company might impose their own protocols to the acquired healthcare facility. While this may come to the dismay of the staff if they are already accustomed to their own protocols, following the standards and protocols of a larger healthcare corporation usually entails more stringent details that will ensure higher quality of care for the patients.
In fact, not only will changing protocols affect the patients, they can also help the staff improve efficiency as well. Most of the time, protocols of larger healthcare facilities are streamlined for efficiency. This means that if ever they do impose their own protocols, it’s for the better.
While acquisitions and mergers are often stressful times for the people involved, healthcare mergers seem to be more positive for the patients in the end.
As already mentioned above, patients can enjoy more benefits associated with a hospital or clinic that will be acquired by a larger and more successful healthcare company.