Hospital administrators in Connecticut who have been involved in the unprecedented streak of mergers and consolidations often tout the financial benefits and efficiencies of such moves. But as the number of independent hospitals in the state dwindles – with more than half of the 29 acute-care hospitals now operating in networks with other hospitals or out-of-state partners – experts and advocates worry that the consolidations will reduce competition in the market and give hospitals more leverage to raise prices. Adding to their concerns is a proposal by a private company to convert four non-profit hospitals to for-profit entities. Several studies, as well as data from the federal Medicare program, suggest that mergers and for-profit conversions may lead to higher prices. But the state has yet to study the impact of mergers on patient pricing, and has no requirement that hospitals try to hold patient charges steady after a merger or conversion. The state also has no comprehensive blueprint guiding hospital configuration or limiting the number of takeovers or networks it will allow.
The state Medical Examining Board fined a New Haven doctor $5,000 on Tuesday for having inappropriate sexual contact with a female patient in 2008. The board found in its memorandum of decision that Dr. Si Hoi Lam had “acted illegally, incompetently and/or negligently in the practice of medicine” during a pre-operative exam of the patient on Dec. 19, 2008. His license was placed on probation for six months, and he was ordered to take a course on medical ethics and boundaries. The board also imposed a permanent order that Lam must have a female employee present when examining any female patient.
Twenty-four of Connecticut’s 31 hospitals will face Medicare penalties in the fiscal year starting in October, in the second round of the federal government’s push to reduce the number of patients readmitted within a month of discharge, new data shows.
As a practitioner at Yale-New Haven Hospital, Dr. Leora Horwitz has seen her share of patients who misunderstand medication changes made during their hospital stays. Just recently, one of her female patients, who was switched to a new beta blocker for high blood pressure during an inpatient stay, landed back in the hospital after discharge because she had taken both the new medication and her old beta blocker – a combination that lowered her heart rate and blood pressure to dangerous levels. “Every physician can tell you about these kinds of errors,” Horwitz said. “We do a relatively poor job of educating patients about their medications.”
As a researcher, Horwitz can now quantify those lapses. A recent study she led looked at 377 patients at Yale-New Haven Hospital, ages 64 and older, who had been admitted with heart failure, acute coronary syndrome or pneumonia, then discharged to home. Of that group, 307 patients – or 81 percent — either experienced a provider error in their discharge medications or had no understanding of at least one intended medication change.
Twenty-three Connecticut hospitals will forfeit Medicare funds in the next year under a new federal policy that penalizes hospitals with significant numbers of patients who are readmitted within a month of discharge.