March 4, 2024

Study: Hospital privatization reduces care quality

Editor's Note

Quality of care drops when hospitals move from public to private ownership, according to review published in the March issue of the Lancet Public Health.

The meta-analysis uses evidence from 13 longitudinal studies across the United States, Canada, Croatia, England, Germany, Italy, South Korea, and Sweden. Researchers evaluated measures such as staffing levels, patient mix by insurance type, the number of services provided, doctors’ workload, and health outcomes to evaluate care quality before and after privatization.

Results indicate that privatization generally led to worse quality of care and higher hospital profits via staff reductions and fewer patients with limited insurance. For instance, privatization corresponded with reductions in cleaning staff, higher rates of patient infections, and even avoidable deaths. In certain cases, there were some patient benefits due to privatization, including more precise appointments and new delivery methods like out-of-hours telephone calls. 

The researchers note that their findings should provide caution as hospitals move to privatization models to improve costs without considering the long-term health outcomes. 

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