Saturday, December 3, 2011

Corporate run nursing homes deliver lower quality care than not-for-profit providers

More evidence of the danger of allowing for- profit corporations to provide human and caring services to vulnerable people.

A major US study  to be published in the Journal Health Services Research has found that for-profit nursing homes deliver significantly lower quality of care than not-for- profit and government run nursing homes.

In the US the 10 largest for-profit corporate providers of hursing homes  operate about 2,000 nursing homes, controlling approximately 13 percent of the country’s nursing home beds.

The study found that the main reason that the quality of care is worse in corporate and for-profit run  nursing homes is that corporate and for- profit providers employ fewer staff  to keep costs down and profits up. In studying staffing and quality in the 10 largest corporate for profit providers of nursing homes the researchers found that the corporate providers  have a strategy of keeping labor costs low to increase profits, with the result that the quality of care suffers and there is a higher number of rated deficiencies.

The researchers found that low nurse staffing levels are the strongest predictor of poor nursing home quality.

The study found that between 2003 and 2008, both the percent of registered nurses and the numbers of all nursing staff were significantly less (30 percent) in the corporate for profit providers than the non-profit homes.  The lower staffing correlated with a considerably higher number of rated deficiencies - the private chains having 36 percent more deficiencies, and 41 percent more serious deficiencies than the non-profits.  Deficiencies include failure to prevent pressure sores, resident weight loss, falls, infections, resident mistreatment, poor sanitary conditions, and other problems that could seriously harm residents.

What is also troubling is that the study found that the quality of care worsened in nursing homes taken over by private equity companies. Nursing homes had more deficiencies after being acquired by a private equity company.This is directly relevant to Australia where private equity companies are increasingly involved in aged care and nursing home provision. The study is the first to make the connection between worse care following acquisition by private equity companies.
"In recent decades, nursing home chains have undergone a considerable expansion.A number of chains were publicly-traded companies until the early 2000s, when five of the country’s largest chains went bankrupt. Following restructuring and ownership changes, as well as increases in Medicare payments, the largest chains became more financially stable. More recently, some of the largest publicly held chains were purchased by private equity investment firms, which invest funds received from investors, with whom they share profits and losses. 

The researchers compared staffing levels and facility deficiencies at the for-profit chains to those at homes run by five other ownership groups to measure quality of care. The 10 largest chains were selected because they are influential in the nursing home industry and are the most successful in terms of growth and market share. 

The study found that for-profit homes strive to keep their costs down by reducing staffing, particularly RN staffing.

The 10 largest for-profit chains in 2008 were HCR Manor Care, Golden Living, Life Care Centers of America, Kindred Healthcare, Genesis HealthCare Corporation, Sun Health Care Group, Inc., SavaSeniorCare LLC, Extendicare Health Services, Inc., National Health Care Corporation, and Skilled HealthCare, LLC.

From 2003 to 2008, these chains had fewer nurse “staffing hours” than non-profit and government nursing homes when controlling for other factors. Together, these companies had the sickest residents, but their total nursing hours were 30 percent lower than non-profit and government nursing homes. Moreover, the top chains were well below the national average for RN and total nurse staffing, and below the minimum nurse staffing recommended by experts.

 The study also found that the four largest for-profit nursing home chains purchased by private equity companies between 2003 and 2008 had more deficiencies after being acquired. The study is the first to make the connection between worse care following acquisition by private equity companies.
There is now a growing body of evidence that demonstrates conclusively that for-profit corporate run nursing homes deliver lower quality care than not-for profit nursing homes.

A study in the British Medical Journal  compared quality-of-care measurements in 82 individual studies that collected data from 1965 to 2003 involving tens of thousands of nursing homes, mostly in the United States. It found that
The authors' meta-analysis, i.e. their integration and statistical analysis of the data from the multiple studies, shows that nonprofit facilities delivered higher quality care than for-profit facilities for two of the four most frequently reported quality measures: (1) more or higher quality staffing and (2) less prevalence of pressure ulcers, sometimes called bedsores.
The results also suggest better performance of nonprofit homes in two other quality measures: less frequent use of physical restraints and fewer noted deficiencies (quality violations) in governmental regulatory assessments.
"The reason patients' quality of care is inferior in for-profit nursing homes is that administrators must spend 10 percent to 15 percent of revenues satisfying shareholders and paying taxes..... For-profit providers cut corners to ensure shareholders achieve their expected return on investment."