Pay For Hospital CEOs Linked More To Technology, Patient Satisfaction Than Quality, Study Finds

Jordan Rau | Kaiser Health News | October 14, 2013

What do hospital boards value in a chief executive? A new study of CEO pay at nonprofit hospitals finds that executives at institutions that have a lot of fancy medical technology and high patient satisfaction are paid more than their peers. But running a hospital that scores well on keeping more patients alive or providing extensive charity care does not translate into a compensation bump.

"The finding on quality is disappointing: It says that most boards are more focused on the fanciest technology around," said Dr. Ashish Jha, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and one of the study’s authors. "This paper suggests that maybe we need to pay a little more attention to other more important outcomes, such as whether your patients are dying at a high rate or not."

CEOs of technology-laden nonprofit hospitals earned on average $136,000 more than those with little advanced machinery, according to the study published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. CEOs at places with high patient satisfaction scores earned on average $52,000 more than those with poor reviews.