Specialty Hospitals: Focused Factories or Cream Skimmers?

Publication Date: April 2003

Publisher: Center for Studying Health System Change

Author(s): Kelly Devers; Linda R. Brewster; Paul B. Ginsburg

Research Area: Health

Type: Brief


Hospitals specializing in cardiovascular and orthopedic procedures are developing rapidly throughout the country, raising challenging questions for communities and policy makers. Proponents argue that specialty hospitals could improve quality and reduce costs, yet skeptics note that specialty hospitals might reduce quality, increase costs and decrease access to basic services. The Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) site visit findings suggest that the relatively high profit margins of these select procedures and specialists' desire to increase control over the care environment and increase their income are among the key reasons for this specialty hospital building boom. Policy makers are exploring a range of responses with the goal of allowing specialty hospitals to compete and innovate while minimizing the potential for quality, cost and access problems.