Research & Trends

Policy Research and Trends Analysis homepage, featuring the latest reports.

Research and Trends

Making Our Case

AHA studies support the advocacy efforts of the association and its member hospitals as they work to provide health care services to communities around the country. This section of the AHA website will provide you with the latest research and analysis of important and emerging trends in the hospital and health care field. AHA sponsors or conducts policy research in the areas of provider payment, the cost of health care, information technology and other topics to assist members and policy makers in understanding issues critical to America’s hospitals.

Health and Hospital Trends

Every year AHA releases a series of reports that provide up to date information on both health and hospital trends. Data from various sources including the AHA Annual Survey is compiled and made available through our TrendWatch Chartbook. Other reports and surveys of hospital leaders are released throughout the year and provide a snapshot of issues like the workforce shortage, ED diversion, health care costs, disaster preparedness and other topics of interest to hospital members, policy makers and the media.

AHA Policy Research

AHA research reports examine key issues to inform the policy making process. These include the TrendWatch series, a periodic AHA publication that reports on the latest trends affecting hospitals and the health care system as well as other AHA sponsored studies.

Featured Reports

Hospitals and Health Systems Prepare for a Value-driven Future, TrendWatch, December 2017
This TrendWatch report provides information to help hospitals and health systems evaluate which VBP model(s) may support their organization’s goals, and provides insights from seven hospitals and health systems participating in different VBP arrangements.

The Importance of Health Coverage
Approximately 90 percent of U.S. residents have health insurance with significant gains in health coverage occuring over the past five years. Health insurance facilitates access to care and is associated with lower death rates, better health outcomes, and improved productivity.

Regulatory Overload: Assessing the Regulatory Burden on Health Systems, Hospitals, and Post-acute Care Providers
This report assesses the administrative impact that existing federal regulations from just four agencies – CMS, OIG, OCR and ONC – have on health systems, hospitals and post-acute care providers across nine domains.

Infographic: Regulatory Burden Overwhelming Providers, Diverting Clinicians from Patient Care
Infographic: Federal Agencies with Regulatory or Oversight Authority Impacting Hospitals

A Critique of MedPAC’s Post-Acute Care Prospective Payment System Prototype Model Review and Policy Recommendations, September 2017
Model Review and Policy Recommendations (A report prepared by Dobson | DaVanzo for the American Hospital Association)

Telehealth: Delivering the Right Care, at the Right Place, at the Right Time: Case Examples of AHA Members in Action, July 2017

This AHA report explores a range of innovative solutions that hospitals and health systems are utilizing to deliver the right care, at the right place, at the right time. These examples illustrate the ingenuity of health care providers that have created measurable improvements in patient outcomes and savings for the health care system.

The Cost of Caring Data Brief, February 2017
Hospitals and health systems are where the most complex care is provided for ill and injured patients. Yet, spending on inpatient and outpatient care has slowed; in fact, Medicare spending growth for hospital services is at its lowest level in 17 years. This data brief looks at trends in health care and hospital spending growth and associated inputs that impact the cost of caring.

Hospitals are Economic Anchors in their Communities, January 2017
Hospitals serve as economic anchors in their communities by directly employing over 5.7 million workers. The economic contribution of hospitals is also felt throughout the economy – hospital spending supported one in nine U.S. jobs and more than $2.8 trillion in economic activity in 2015.

Trends in Hospital Inpatient Drug Costs: Issues and Challenges, October 2016
The American Hospital Association and the Federation of American Hospitals commissioned this study to better understand how drug prices are changing in the inpatient hospital setting.

Issue Brief: Telehealth: Helping Hospitals Deliver Cost-Effective Care, April 2016
Telehealth is increasingly viewed as a cost-effective method to deliver patient care and expand access. The growing use of telehealth reflects larger health care trends that place the patient’s care and experience at the center of treatment decisions.

Hospitals Advance Information Sharing, but External Barriers to Increased Data Exchange Remain, TrendWatch, February 2016
Hospitals are proactively developing the means to share information between departments as well as with other care partners, patients and public health agencies. While access to health data has increased, critical infrastructure and technical barriers constrain the sharing of patient information across settings of care. This TrendWatch report explores the advances that hospitals have made in information sharing, as well as the external barriers that need to be addressed in order to support interoperability in a real-world environment.

Administrative Simplification Strategies Offer Opportunities to Improve Patient Experience and Reduce Costs, TrendWatch, January 2016
The health care system suffers from an overabundance of paper work. Hospitals and health systems can realize improvements and significant savings by increasing the volume of electronic data exchange called for under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s (HIPAA) administrative simplification provisions.

Issue Brief: Medicare's Bundled Payment Initiatives: Considerations for Providers, January 2016
This issue brief describes the evolution of bundling within the Medicare program; the opportunities bundling creates for hospitals and post-acute care providers; the challenges providers have encountered in recent initiatives; the issues providers should consider when entering a bundled payment program; and policy considerations associated with a broader expansion of bundling initiatives in Medicare.

The Role of Post-Acute Care in New Care Delivery Models, TrendWatch, December 2015
Post-acute care (PAC) providers face an increasingly complex regulatory and market environment as health care transforms from a system that rewards volume to one that encourages and rewards value. This report highlights case examples from PAC innovators and their partners as they adapt to the early stages of delivery system reform; it also examines the current and potential future for PAC providers.

Addendum: Background On Post-Acute Care

The Performance of Provider-sponsored Health Plans: Key Findings, Strategic Implications, October 2015 Members Only
This report examines the attributes of high-performing provider-sponsored health plans and considerations for hospital and health system leaders.

Why Interoperability Matters, October 2015
While health IT tools are essential for building the care system of the future, and hospitals are making significant ongoing investments, too often, the tools are expensive, unwieldy and do not yet support easy information sharing. The current inability for electronic systems to speak the same language to one another and to efficiently and correctly transmit information – to be interoperable – is among the most pressing issues facing health care stakeholders today.

Teaching Hospitals: Preparing Tomorrow's Physicians Today, TrendWatch, June 2015
Teaching hospitals serve as centers for training future health care professionals, while also supporting an environment in which biomedical and clinical research can flourish, offering specialized services and providing patient care, often in the most disadvantaged communities. Training new physicians, a time-intensive process that can take up to 14 years, is an essential part of the mission of teaching hospitals.

Issue Brief: Zeroing in on the Triple Aim, May 2015
Patients expect and deserve excellent care from their health care providers. This paper highlights multiple areas where hospitals are improving care, encouraging healthier lifestyles and reducing costs.

Full Report: Hospitals Are Leading the Way on Improving Care, Enhancing Health, and Reducing Costs (report submitted to the AHA by The Severyn Group)

Realizing the Promise of Telehealth: Understanding the Legal and Regulatory Challenges, TrendWatch, May 2015
As telehealth increasingly becomes an integral component of our health care delivery system, and patients become more accustomed to its convenience, hospitals, health systems and other providers will seek new ways to use the rapidly evolving technology in diverse and innovative ways.

The Real Cost of the Inefficient Medicare RAC Program, May 2015
The Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) program was created by Congress to audit providers’ Medicare claims to identify overpayments and underpayments. However, the current structure of the RAC program has led to an overwhelming number of inappropriate denials, with contractors often denying claims for necessary medical care. As a result, the implementation of the RAC program has imposed a significant administrative and financial burden on hospitals.

The infographic is available at:

Rethinking the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, TrendWatch, March 2015
Reducing readmissions is an important way to improve quality and lower health care spending. Hospitals are making significant progress; as reported by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the national readmission rate fell to 17.5 percent in 2013, after holding steady at around 19 to 19.5 percent for many years.

Always There, Ready To Care: The 24/7 Role of America’s Hospitals, March 2015
America's hospitals play a unique role in the health care system serving as the safety net for those unable to pay, being available 24/7 to respond to anything from a broken arm to a mass casualty event, and maintaining the resources to respond to natural and manmade disasters. This role is not separately funded. Instead costs are spread across all services provided.

Economic Contribution Often Overlooked (2015 Update)
Hospitals employ over 5.6 million workers and with multiplier effects included support a total of 15.7 million jobs and $2.6 million of economic activity.

Comparison of Care in Hospital Outpatient Departments and Physician Offices Final Report, February 2015
Prepared for the American Hospital Association by KNG Health Consulting, LLC
This study looks at the differences between patients served in a hospital outpatient department compared to a physician office. Patients who receive care in a hospital outpatient department (HOPD) are more likely to be minority, poorer, have more severe chronic conditions and have higher prior utilization of hospitals and emergency departments than patients treated in physician offices.

The Promise of Telehealth For Hospitals, Health Systems and Their Communities, TrendWatch, January 2015
Telehealth increasingly is vital to our health care delivery system, enabling health care providers to connect with patients and consulting practitioners across vast distances. Hospitals are embracing the use of telehealth technologies because they offer benefits such as virtual consultations with distant specialists, the ability to perform high-tech monitoring without requiring patients to leave their homes, and less expensive and more convenient care options for patients.

Private-Sector Hospital Discharge Tools, January 2015
Samples of hospital discharge planning tools that strive to improve transitions to post-acute care and reduce readmissions.

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