It’s easy to hear the word ‘merger’ and think of negative associations. We think of the big, bad companies swooping in and buying out the helpless little guy who didn’t stand a chance. Right?

But when it comes to hospital mergers in 2015, it doesn’t always mean bad news. Mergers offer their fair share of benefits to both smaller organizations and the communities they serve. In this post, we’ll examine a few ways they do just that.

hospital mergers

1. Maintaining access to care

As some smaller hospitals face closure due to the changing healthcare environment, mergers offer a chance for communities to maintain their local hospital–just under a different name and umbrella. Rather than letting the hospital close (and thus forcing patients to travel further to get the care they need) collaborating with larger entities means that smaller communities don’t have to downgrade their access (or quality) of care.

2. Efficiency improvements

Mergers can help some hospitals improve their services and overall efficiency by introducing new procedures, new technology, and the training that helps hospital staff work more effectively as a team. This reduces excess capacity, frees up resources for essential services, and makes slow processes a thing of the past.

3. Technology improvements

Hospital mergers can mean that some hospitals finally have the capacity to upgrade technology–and thus, provide a better level of care. Machinery provides more accurate results, and patients then no longer have to travel a long distance to get the tests they need.

4. Infrastructure Overhaul

As mergers offer more financial security, smaller hospitals benefit from being able to tackle the infrastructure improvements that have been delayed due to financial strain. This means not only adding on more room for outpatient visits, but adding some specialty care wings in some instances.

Hospital Merger Trend

So what do the numbers look like for hospital mergers right now? Reports show that mergers were up by 16% in 2013, but that the close watch of the Federal Trade Commission in 2014 made some merger deals throw on the brakes.

Why the close watch? The FTC cites the AntiTrust Act of 1914–saying these mergers result in too little competition within the healthcare marketplace. The companies driving the merger trend, however, cite greater coordination of care as their reason for consolidating healthcare providers.

Which will be triumphant? It’s hard to say. But as more and more smaller hospitals struggle to keep their heads above water during the shift to the regulations of the Accountable Care Act, the options are becoming fewer and fewer.

What are your thoughts? Will mergers end up as smaller hospitals only option for survival?