What underlies the observed hospital volume-outcome relationship?

BMC Health Serv Res. 2022 Jan 14;22(1):70. doi: 10.1186/s12913-021-07449-2.


Background: Studies of the hospital volume-outcome relationship have highlighted that a greater volume activity improves patient outcomes. While this finding has been known for years, most studies to date have failed to delve into what underlies this relationship.

Objective: This study aimed to shed light on the basis of the hospital volume effect on patient outcomes by comparing treatment modalities for epithelial ovarian carcinoma patients.

Data: An exhaustive dataset of 355 patients in first-line treatment for Epithelial Ovarian Carcinoma (EOC) in 2012 in three regions of France was used. These regions account for 15% of the metropolitan French population.

Methods: In the presence of endogeneity induced by a reverse causality between hospital volume and patient outcomes, we used an instrumental variable approach. Hospital volume of activity was instrumented by the distance from patients' homes to their hospital, the population density, and the median net income of patient municipalities.

Results: Based on our parameter estimates, we found that the rate of complete tumor resection would increase by 15.5 percentage points with centralized care, and by 8.3 percentage points if treatment decisions were coordinated by high-volume centers compared to decentralized care.

Conclusion: As volume alone is an imperfect correlate of quality, policy-makers need to know what volume is a proxy for in order to devise volume-based policies.

Keywords: Centralization of care; Epithelial ovarian cancer; Instrumental variable; Learning effect; Volume-outcome causal effect.

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Ovarian Epithelial
  • France / epidemiology
  • Hospitals*
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Ovarian Neoplasms* / therapy