Church-Owned Health Systems Best Secular, Study Says

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media , August 10, 2010

The findings also imply a changing role for health system governance and leadership, according to the report. Many health systems were founded for economic purposes—such as access to capital, economies of scale, increased market share, and greater negotiating power with payers. Therefore, the responsibility for quality of care in most health systems could fall to local hospital governing boards.

This means that the leadership teams including boards, executives, and physician and nursing leaders of health systems owned by churches may be more active in aligning quality goals and watching achievement across the system, the report says.

Further study will be needed to better determine why these differences among systems exist and what impact they will have on the systems' future health—especially in light of changes expected with healthcare reform, it added. Researchers at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health currently are assessing this area.

The Health System Benchmarks study, which was released earlier this summer by Thomson Reuters, relied on public data from the 2007 and 2008 Medicare Provider Analysis and Review (MedPAR) data and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Hospital Compare data sets.

Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at

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