New findings published this month in two prominent journals provide insight into the characteristics and performance of health systems using the latest data from the Compendium of U.S. Health Systems, created by Mathematica for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).
Mathematica and AHRQ researchers reported in Health Affairs that there was substantial consolidation of physicians and hospitals into vertically integrated health systems from 2016 to 2018. This resulted in more than half of physicians and 72 percent of hospitals being affiliated with one of the 637 health systems in the United States. Among systems operating in both 2016 and 2018 years, the median number of physicians increased by 29 percent, from 285 to 369. This has implications for cost, access, and quality of care.
Although most research on health systems suggests that consolidation is associated with higher prices, a new article published in Health Services Research suggests that vertically integrated health systems might provide greater value under payment models that provide incentives to improve value. In this study, the authors found lower costs and similar quality scores from system hospitals compared with non-system hospitals that were participating in Medicare’s Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement, a mandatory episode payment model.
These studies were conducted by researchers at Mathematica, which leads AHRQ’s Coordinating Center for Comparative Health System Performance. This initiative seeks to understand the factors that affect health systems’ use of patient-centered outcomes research in delivering care. Learn more about the Comparative Health System Performance Initiative.