Background: There is still significant uncertainty as to whether market competition raises or lowers clinical quality in publicly funded healthcare systems. We attempted to assess the effects of market competition on inpatient care quality of stroke patients in a retrospective study of the universal single-payer health insurance system in Taiwan. Methods: In this 11-year population-based study, we conducted a pooled time-series cross-sectional analysis with a fixed-effects model and the Hausman test approach by utilizing two nationwide datasets: the National Health Insurance Research Database and the National Hospital and Services Survey in Taiwan. Patients who were admitted to a hospital for ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke were enrolled. After excluding patients with a previous history of stroke and those with different types of stroke, 247 379 ischemic and 79 741 hemorrhagic stroke patients were included in our analysis. Four outcome indicators were applied: the in-hospital mortality rate, 30-day post-operative complication rate, 14-day re-admission rate and 30-day re-admission rate. Results: Market competition exerted a negative or negligible effect on the medical care quality of stroke patients. Compared to hospitals located in a highly competitive market, in-hospital mortality rates for hemorrhagic stroke patients were significantly lower in moderately (β = -0.05, P < 0.01) and less competitive markets (β = -0.05, P < 0.01). Conversely, the impact of market competition on the quality of care of ischemic stroke patients was insignificant. Conclusions: Simply fostering market competition might not achieve the objective of improving the quality of health care. Other health policy actions need to be contemplated.
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