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Association of Hospital Market Competition with Outcomes of Complex Cancer Surgery.

BACKGROUND: The association of hospital market competition, financial costs, and quality of oncologic care has not been well-defined. This study sought to evaluate variations in patient outcomes and financial expenditures after complex cancer surgery across high- and low-competition markets.

METHODS: Medicare 100% Standard Analytic Files were used to identify patients with lung, esophageal, gastric, hepatopancreaticobiliary, or colorectal cancer who underwent surgical resection between 2018 and 2021. Data were merged with the annual hospital survey database, and the hospital market Herfindahl-Hirschman index was used to categorize hospitals into low- and high-concentration markets. Multi-level, multivariable regression models adjusting for patient characteristics (i.e., age, sex, comorbidities, and social vulnerability), year of procedure, and hospital factors (i.e., case volume, nurse-bed ratio, and teaching status) were used to assess the association between hospital market competition and outcomes.

RESULTS: Among 117,641 beneficiaries who underwent complex oncologic surgery, the mean age was 73.8 ± 6.1 years, and approximately one-half of the cohort was male (n = 56,243, 47.8%). Overall, 63.8% (n = 75,041) of the patients underwent care within a high-competition market. Notably, there was marked geographic variation relative to market competition. High versus low market-competition hospitals were more likely to be in high social vulnerability areas (35.1 vs 27.5%; p < 0.001), as well as care for racial/ethnic minority individuals (13.8 vs 7.7%; p < 0.001), and patients with more comorbidities (≥ 2 Elixhauser comorbidities: 63.1 vs 61.1%; p < 0.001). In the multivariable analysis, treatment at hospitals in high- versus low-competition markets was associated with lower odds of achieving a textbook outcome (odds ratio, 0.95; 95% confidence interval, 0.91-0.99; p = 0.009). Patients at high-competition hospitals had greater mean index hospitalization costs ($19,462.2 [16211.9] vs $18,844.7 [14994.7]) and 90-day post-discharge costs ($7807.8 [15431.3] vs $7332.8 [14038.2]) (both p < 0.001) than individuals at low-competition hospitals.

CONCLUSIONS: Hospital market competition was associated with poor achievement of an optimal postoperative outcome and greater hospitalization costs.

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