By Leonard L. Berry and Paul Barach for The Conversation
August 20, 2021
Hospitals have long embraced the practice of outsourcing some services to specialized companies. Much of this outsourcing is for nonclinical tasks such as laundry, information technology and cybersecurity, and outsourcing those types of services can boost efficiency and quality.
However, over the past few years there has been a fast-growing trend of hospitals outsourcing clinically relevant services – like anesthesiology and emergency medicine – to companies separate from the hospital. When that happens, hospitals relinquish some of the control they have over quality of care.
One of us is a researcher who studies service quality within health care systems and the other is a practicing physician, researcher and adviser to medical centers who has had direct experience with outsourcing. Together with collaborators, we analyzed published research to better understand the benefits and risks of outsourcing in health care.
Our research focused on four clinically relevant services – emergency care, radiology, laboratory services and environmental services – and we found tangible harm to patients and hospitals when those were outsourced.