Background: For many years, hospitals have relied on nonpatient care activities to complement patient care revenues and strengthen financial performance. For hospitals that lose money on patient care, nonpatient care revenues may mean the difference between net income and loss. Little is known currently, however, about whether nonpatient care revenues allow hospitals with negative patient care margins to offset their losses.
Purpose: The aims of this study are (a) to examine whether hospitals rely on income from nonpatient care activities to offset losses on patient care and (b) to identify characteristics of hospitals that are able to offset such losses.
Data and Methods: Data for this study came from the state of California. The sample consisted of not-for-profit and investor-owned short-term general acute care hospitals for the years 2003–2007. Descriptive statistics were used to compare hospitals with negative patient care margins that were able to offset patient care losses to hospitals that were unable to do so.
Findings: Between 2003 and 2007, approximately 40% of study hospitals lost money on patient care. Of these, only 25% relied on nonpatient care income to offset losses. Hospitals that were able to offset patient care losses tended to be larger, not-for-profit organizations that were able to generate substantial shares of their total revenues from nonpatient care activities, in particular, charitable donations and financial investments.
Practice Implications: Despite claims that income from nonpatient care activities frequently allows hospitals to offset patient care losses, this study showed that only a small proportion of hospitals were able to do so. The financial viability of hospitals with negative patient care margins will thus depend on their ability to (a) deliver high-quality care profitably, (b) derive income from other operating activities, and (c) generate income from financial investments and engage in active development efforts to increase donations and gifts.