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Hospital consolidation: It may be good for the bottom line, is it good for your health?

mergePart of our job at Voices for Affordable Health is to keep track of how the latest trends in health care affect consumers. Many of you have likely noticed that your local hospital has been purchased by a big health care system.

Now Modern Healthcare, an industry website, reports that consolidation of hospitals is prompting hospitals within a chain to specialize in a narrower number of services. For example, in Chicago, Loyola Medicine is consolidating open-heart surgery at one flagship facility. Another big and growing Chicago health care system, NorthShore University Health System, is centralizing orthopedics, urology and open-heart surgery at various locations within its four-hospital network.

By centralizing services such as cardiology, obstetrics and radiology, Modern Healthcare reports, hospital chains “aim to improve care and save money on surgical equipment, space and staff.”

These hospitals will continue to have emergency departments. But when it comes to specialized services, some patients will have to travel farther from home. And that may be difficult for some people, says Steven Shill, a partner at the BDO Center for Healthcare Excellence & Innovation.

“In urban settings, don’t estimate how hard it may be for certain families to get from one part of town to another,” Shill told Modern Healthcare.

Has your local hospital become part of a bigger chain or health care system? How have you been affected? Share your stories with Voices for Affordable Health.