In multiple presentations on healthcare policy (outside of our patient safety activities) we have discussed the impact of mergers and acquisitions in healthcare. Having participated directly or indirectly in several mergers, we’ve focused primarily on the financial implications.
Call us skeptics. While every merger promises the community incredible financial benefit, few deliver on those promises. Theoretically, mergers should produce much savings by eliminating duplication. But, in reality, such mergers usually result in putting negotiating clout in one system and eventually rising healthcare costs for the community.
But until now there has been little attention to the patient safety repercussions of hospital mergers. Haas and colleagues
The authors identified 3 key risks to patient care resulting from mergers:
Post-merger, patients may be cared for by clinicians and staff who have little existing knowledge about them. Changes in supplies, equipment, formularies, protocols, and information systems also lead to unfamiliarity that may adversely impact patient care. And physicians, especially specialists, may now be required to travel to new settings where they may be unfamiliar with infrastructure, processes, teams, and clinical cultures that may differ significantly from one organization to the other(s).
Importantly, in collaboration with their Ariadne Labs, they make available for free a guide and patient safety toolkit to help with clinical planning between institutions prior to mergers. It also includes a checklist for developing a joint clinical integration council.
Mergers are not easy on clinicians and healthcare staff and ultimately may jeopardize patient safety. These resources are extremely valuable for any organizations considering merger and need to be tapped very early in any discussions about merger.