Integrated Delivery Networks (IDNs) have very different stated purposes than mere collections of hospitals: to coordinate care across the continuum of health services and to manage population health. IDN advocates claim that these complex enterprises yield both societal benefits and performance advantages over less integrated competitors. The purpose of this analysis is to evaluate the evidence to support these claims.
For the study, researchers performed a review of the academic literature on IDN performance, as well as an analysis of publicly available quality and financial data from 15 of the biggest not-for-profit IDNs in the U.S., including Sutter Health in Northern California. The authors compared the publicly available performance information on the IDNs' flagship hospital in its principal regional market with that flagship's most significant in-market competitor. The study found that it is possible for integrated delivery networks to offer meaningful benefits, but there is little evidence they have reduced costs or improved the quality of care. Findings include:
- Hospital-physician integration has raised physician costs, hospital prices and per capita medical care spending;
- Hospital integration into health plan operations and capitated contracting was not associated either with clinical efficiency or financial efficiency
- Providers are likely to see a decrease in operating margins and return on capital as they invest in IDN development