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JAMA. 2002 Nov 20;288(19):2449-57.

Comparison of mortality between private for-profit and private not-for-profit hemodialysis centers: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

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Depatment of Medicine, McMaster University, Faculty of Health Sciences, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8N 3Z5.

Erratum in

  • JAMA. 2004 Jan 14;291(2):186.



Private for-profit and private not-for-profit dialysis facilities provide the majority of hemodialysis care in the United States. There has been extensive debate about whether the profit status of these facilities influences patient mortality.


To determine whether a difference in adjusted mortality rates exists between hemodialysis patients receiving care in private for-profit vs private not-for-profit dialysis centers.


We searched 11 bibliographic databases, reviewed our own files, and contacted experts in June 2001-January 2002. In June 2002, we also searched PubMed using the "related articles" feature, SciSearch, and the reference lists of all studies that fulfilled our eligibility criteria.


We included published and unpublished observational studies that directly compared the mortality rates of hemodialysis patients in private for-profit and private not-for-profit dialysis centers and provided adjusted mortality rates. We masked the study results prior to determining study eligibility, and teams of 2 reviewers independently evaluated the eligibility of all studies. Eight observational studies that included more than 500 000 patient-years of data fulfilled our eligibility criteria.


Teams of 2 reviewers independently abstracted data on study characteristics, sampling method, data sources, and factors controlled for in the analyses. Reviewers resolved disagreements by consensus.


The studies reported data from January 1, 1973, through December 31, 1997, and included a median of 1342 facilities per study. Six of the 8 studies showed a statistically significant increase in adjusted mortality in for-profit facilities, 1 showed a nonsignificant trend toward increased mortality in for-profit facilities, and 1 showed a nonsignificant trend toward decreased mortality in for-profit facilities. The pooled estimate, using a random-effects model, demonstrated that private for-profit dialysis centers were associated with an increased risk of death (relative risk, 1.08; 95% confidence interval, 1.04-1.13; P<.001). This relative risk suggests that there are annually 2500 (with a plausible range of 1200-4000) excessive premature deaths in US for-profit dialysis centers.


Hemodialysis care in private not-for-profit centers is associated with a lower risk of mortality compared with care in private for-profit centers.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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