There has been much debate about specialty hospitals--short-term acute care hospitals with physician owners or investors that primarily treat patients who have specific medical conditions or need surgical procedures--and the competitive effects they may have on general hospitals. Advocates of specialty hospitals contend that competition from these physician-owned facilities can prompt general hospitals to implement efficiency, quality, and amenity improvements, thus favorably affecting the overall health care delivery system. Critics of specialty hospitals are concerned that general hospitals may respond to such competition by making changes that do not necessarily increase efficiency or benefit patients or communities, for example, by adding services already available in the community. The appropriateness of physicians' financial interests in specialty hospitals has also been questioned. GAO was asked to provide information on the competitive response of general hospitals to specialty hospitals. GAO surveyed approximately 600 general hospitals in markets with and without specialty hospitals to provide information on the extent to which these two groups of general hospitals reported implementing operational and clinical service changes to remain competitive. GAO received responses from 401 general hospitals.
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