Correlation between hospital finances and quality and safety of patient care

PLoS One. 2019 Aug 16;14(8):e0219124. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0219124. eCollection 2019.


Background: Hospitals under financial pressure may struggle to maintain quality and patient safety and have worse patient outcomes relative to well-resourced hospitals. Poor predictive validity may explain why previous studies on the association between finances and quality/safety have been equivocal. This manuscript employs principal component analysis to produce robust measures of both financial status and quality/safety of care, to assess our a priori hypothesis: hospital financial performance is associated with the provision of quality care, as measured by quality and safety processes, patient outcomes, and patient centered care.

Methods: This 2014 cross-sectional study investigated hospital financial condition and hospital quality and safety at acute care hospitals. The hospital financial data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) cost report were used to develop a composite financial performance score using principal component analysis. Hospital quality and patient safety were measured with a composite quality/safety performance score derived from principal component analysis, utilizing a range of established quality and safety indicators including: risk-standardized inpatient mortality, 30-day mortality, 30-day readmissions for select conditions, patient safety indicators from inpatient admissions, process of care chart reviews, CMS value-based purchasing total performance score and patient experience of care surveys. The correlation between the composite financial performance score and the composite quality/safety performance score was calculated using linear regression adjusting for hospital characteristics.

Results: Among the 108 New York State acute care facilities for which data were available, there is a clear relationship between hospital financial performance and hospital quality/safety performance score (standardized correlation coefficient 0.34, p<0.001). The composite financial performance score is also positively associated with the CMS Value Based Purchasing Total Performance Score (standardized correlation coefficient 0.277, p = 0.002); while it is negatively associated with 30 day readmission for all outcomes (standardized correlation coefficient -0.236, p = 0.013), 30-day readmission for congestive heart failure (standardized correlation coefficient -0.23, p = 0.018), 30 day readmission for pneumonia (standardized correlation coefficient -0.209, p = 0.033), and a decrease in 30-day mortality for acute myocardial infarction (standardized correlation coefficient -0.211, p = 0.027). Used alone, operating margin and total margin are poor predictors of quality and safety outcomes.

Conclusions: Strong financial performance is associated with improved patient reported experience of care, the strongest component distinguishing quality and safety. These findings suggest that financially stable hospitals are better able to maintain highly reliable systems and provide ongoing resources for quality improvement.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Decision Trees
  • Economics, Hospital* / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • New York
  • Patient Care / economics*
  • Patient Care / standards
  • Patient Readmission / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Safety / economics*
  • Patient Safety / standards
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Quality of Health Care / economics*
  • Quality of Health Care / standards

Grants and funding

The authors received no specific funding for this work.