Study: Dialysis Death Risk Is Higher in For-Profit Clinics

A majority of Americans who've suffered kidney failure go to Medicare-certified treatment centers three times weekly for dialysis. Many of these are part of large chains, that are for-profit businesses. According to this study, that's unfortunate: It found that patients at for-profit centers had a 13 percent greater risk of dying than did patients at non-profits.

Yi Zhang, Dennis Cotter and Mae Thamer analyzed records on 34,914 dialysis patients in the United States, treated over three months in 2004. They followed the patients for the next 18 to 30 months, to assess the impact of the franchisization of dialysis on patients' outcomes (there are now more than 11 times as many chain-owned dialysis centers in the U.S. than there were in 1991). They compared results from five major chains (not identified by name in the paper) and for independent operators.

Aside from finding that patients had a greater risk of dying if they received for-profit care (chain or independent), the study also turned up sharp differences among the different chains (which weren't named, but you can find a who's-who in the business press—for example, here). According to their analysis (which, they say, compensated for confounding factors, like the possibility that patients at the big chains have worse health), a patient at the second-largest of the chains, a for-profit company, had a 24 percent greater chance of dying during the study period than did a patient going to a medium-sized non-profit chain. That's a pretty significant discrepancy, since the two largest for-profit chains together serve 60 percent of all U.S. dialysis patients.

Zhang, Y., Cotter, D., & Thamer, M. (2010). The Effect of Dialysis Chains on Mortality among Patients Receiving Hemodialysis Health Services Research DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-6773.2010.01219.x

Big Think
Sponsored by Lumina Foundation

Upvote/downvote each of the videos below!

As you vote, keep in mind that we are looking for a winner with the most engaging social venture pitch - an idea you would want to invest in.

Keep reading Show less

Scientists figure out how to trap dark matter

A new method promises to capture an elusive dark world particle.

Surprising Science
  • Scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) devised a method for trapping dark matter particles.
  • Dark matter is estimated to take up 26.8% of all matter in the Universe.
  • The researchers will be able to try their approach in 2021, when the LHC goes back online.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists create a "lifelike" material that has metabolism and can self-reproduce

An innovation may lead to lifelike evolving machines.

Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
Surprising Science
  • Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
  • The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
  • The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
Keep reading Show less
  • As a stand-up comedian, Pete Holmes knows how words can manipulate audiences — for good and bad.
  • Words aren't just words. They stich together our social fabric, helping establish and maintain relationships.
  • Holmes has a clever linguistic exercise meant to bring you closer to the people around you.