A study released today by Thomson Reuters found that Catholic and other church-owned health systems demonstrated significantly better, more efficient care than for-profit health systems.

Catholic health systems also were found to provide significantly higher quality than secular not-for-profit health systems. For-profit systems had the lowest performance among the four types of ownership.

A total of 255 U.S. health systems with two or more short-term, general, non-federal hospitals were assessed. Researchers looked at eight metrics that address clinical quality and efficiency: mortality, medical complications, patient safety, average length of stay, 30-day mortality rate, 30-day readmission rate, adherence to clinical standards of care (evidence-based core measures published by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services), and HCAHPS patient survey score (part of a national initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to measure the quality of care in hospitals).

Researchers used American Hospital Association ownership classifications to assign the health systems to one of four ownership categories - Catholic, other church-owned, investor-owned, or not-for-profit. They found that:

* Catholic and other church-owned systems are significantly more likely to provide higher quality performance and efficiencies to communities than investor-owned systems.

* Investor-owned systems demonstrate lower quality performance than all other groups.

"The findings of the study suggest a changing role for health system governance and leadership," said Jean Chenoweth, senior vice president for performance improvement and 100 Top Hospitals programs at Thomson Reuters. "Our data suggest that the leadership of health systems owned by churches may be the most active in aligning quality goals and monitoring achievement of mission across the system."

The analysis used the Thomson Reuters 100 Top Hospitals: Health System Benchmarks study released on June 21 as its basis. It relied on public data from the 2007 and 2008 Medicare Provider Analysis and Review (MedPAR) data and the CMS Hospital Compare data sets.