Association of Hospitalization and Mortality Among Patients Initiating Dialysis With Hemodialysis Facility Ownership and Acquisitions
Importance: Mergers and acquisitions among health care institutions are increasingly common, and dialysis markets have undergone several decades of mergers and acquisitions. Objective: To examine the outcomes of hemodialysis facility acquisitions independent of associated changes in market competition resulting from acquisitions. Design, Setting, and Participants: Cohort study using difference-in-differences (DID) analyses to compare changes in health outcomes over time among in-center US dialysis facilities that were acquired by a hemodialysis chain with facilities located nearby but not acquired. Multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression models and negative binomial models with predicted marginal effects were developed to examine health outcomes, controlling for patient, facility, and geographic characteristics. All facility ownership types were examined together and stratified analyses were conducted of facilities that were independently owned and chain owned prior to acquisitions. The study was conducted from January 2001 to September 2015; 174 905 patients starting in-center dialysis in the 3 years before and following dialysis facility acquisitions were included. Data were analyzed from March 2017 to December 2018. Exposures: Acquisition by a hemodialysis chain. Main Outcomes and Measures: Twelve-month hazard of death and hospital days per patient-year were the primary outcomes. Results: Of the 174 905 patients included in the study, 79 705 were women (45.6%), 24 409 (14.0%) were of Hispanic ethnicity, 61 815 (35.3%) were black, 105 272 (60.2%) were white, and 1247 (0.7%) were Native American. Mean (SD) age was 65 (15) years. Before acquisitions, adjusted mortality and hospitalization rates were 10% (95% CI, −16% to −5%) and 2.9 days per patient-year (95% CI, −3.8 to −2.0) lower, respectively, at independently owned facilities that were acquired compared with those that were not acquired, while hospitalization rates were 0.7 days (95% CI, −1.2 to −2.0) lower at chain-owned facilities that were acquired compared with those that were not acquired. In stratified analyses of independently owned facilities, mortality decreases were smaller at acquired (−8.4%; 95% CI, −14% to −25%) vs nonacquired (−20.3%; 95% CI, −25.8% to −14.3%) facilities (DID P < .001). Similarly, hospitalization rates did not change at acquired facilities and decreased by 2.6 days per patient-year (95% CI, −3.6 to −1.7 days) at nonacquired facilities (DID P < .001). Acquisitions were not associated with changes in health outcomes at chain-owned facilities. Slower reductions in mortality and hospitalization rates at independently owned facilities contributed to significant differences in hospitalizations (−2.0 days; 95% CI, −2.5 to −1.6, at nonacquired vs 0.9 days; 95% CI, −1.3 to −0.5, at acquired facilities; DID, P < .001) across all ownership types but not mortality (DID, P = .28) with regard to acquisitions. Conclusions and Relevance: Acquisition of independently owned dialysis facilities by larger dialysis organizations was associated with slower decreases in mortality and hospitalization rates, as nonacquired facilities appeared to experience more rapid improvements in outcomes over time.