UCLA-Westwood-HospitalIn recent stories about the current hospital building boom (here, here and here), many factors are mentioned. Aging physical plants, patient flow bottlenecks, and competition for market share are all mentioned as factors, but the prominent reason sites is the aging population. Researchers at the Center for Studying Health System Change did a study to determine what really drove the boom (press release).

Between 2005 and 2015, the study estimates that population aging will raise
utilization of inpatient services by only 0.74 percent per year—or 7.6 percent
over the entire decade, compared with a projected overall 64.8 percent increase
in inpatient utilization during the same period.

Local population trends and medical technology advances will be far more important
in forecasting community needs for additional inpatient hospital capacity than
population aging, according to the study.

Changing practice patterns were also mentioned as a key driver in the building boom. It all goes to show, that any expansion plans should be carefully thought out, based on on local conditions. And construction should be contemplated only after everything possible has been done to optimize current operations, especially patient flow.

You can download the paper here (pdf).