Not-for-profit nursing homes provide better care, on average, than for-profits, research suggests

U.S. not-for-profit nursing homes, on average, deliver higher quality care than for-profit nursing homes, an analysis of observational studies suggests.  

A multiprovince team of Canadian researchers reviewed 82 studies of nursing home quality to determine the care differences between for-profit and not-for-profit nursing homes. Some of the studies dated as far back as 1965. The most recent results were from 2003. Of the 82 studies, 40 conclusively demonstrated that not-for-profit nursing homes had performed better on four key quality-of-care measures, while only two found that for-profit facilities had performed better. The rest showed mixed results. The quality-of-care measures studied were staffing levels, pressure ulcer rates, use of restraints and fewer government citations.

Researchers point out that a number of variables, such as a lack of a uniform definition of “quality of care,” influence the results. For-profit and not-for-profit facilities have different motives and structures, researchers note. Also, it’s difficult to adjust for factors such as staff turnover rates and management style. As a result, while the averages and trends found in this study appear to favor not-for-profit homes, the report should not be used to judge all institutions, researchers say. The study was published online August 4 in the British Medical Journal.