What Exactly is a Hospital?

The answer to that question is less obvious than most people might think. A very broad definition for a hospital might be “a place where very sick people stay and get medical treatment.” That definition does cover most hospitals in the U.S. but it’s far from precise. In truth, the nearly 6,000 institutions in the U.S. that fall under the category “hospital” range from small, 16 bed psychiatric facilities that treat only mental illnesses to 1,000 bed metropolitan hospitals that treat nearly every medical condition. Some hospitals specialize in long term rehabilitation for patients who have suffered strokes or had severe injuries whereas others offer only acute care and rarely keep patients for more than a week.

What’s more, far more people are using hospital outpatient services than in the past and fewer people are being kept in hospitals for overnight treatments.

To complicate matters further many hospitals now run nursing homes, outpatient surgery centers, infusion centers that provide outpatient chemotherapy clinics as well as many other satellite outpatient facilities. These complex hospital networks effectively blur the lines between hospitals, outpatient clinics and nursing homes which makes tracking the amount of money that goes to each type of institution and tracking how that money is spent very challenging.

In spite of these challenges, this section provides as much information as I could find on hospitals finances, utilization, turnover as well as a page on the for-profit hospital industry in the U.S.