Headlines: August 6th, 2009

A new study has found that on average nursing homes that do not have to make a profit deliver higher quality care than those run to make money. The research is published on bmj.com but the authors say more work is needed to explore the impact of profit status on the quality of care.

The study’s authors say concerns about care in nursing homes are widespread. In this country more than half of healthcare beds belong to independent nursing homes. In the United States two thirds of nursing homes are for-profit institutions, while in Canada, just over half are in for-profit ownership. The team of Canadian based researchers analysed the results of 82 studies carried out between 1965 and 2003 comparing the quality of care.

Forty of the studies showed significantly better quality in not-for-profit homes, while just three studies favoured quality of care in homes run for profit. The remaining studies had mixed results which, the authors say, suggests that while the average effect is clear there is variation across institutions. Further analysis indicated that not-for-profit homes delivered higher quality for two of the four most frequently used quality measures, more or higher quality staffing and lower pressure ulcer prevalence.

The view of the new study is supported by Professor Tamara Konetzka from the University of Chicago in an accompanying editorial. She believes more information is needed but says: “If differences in quality between for-profit and not-for-profit nursing homes stem at least in part from differences in revenues rather than mission, eliminating for-profit homes may do little to eliminate differences in quality.”