Top 5 Differences Between NFPs and For-Profit Hospitals

Christopher Cheney, June 20, 2017

Although nonprofit and for-profit hospitals are fundamentally similar, there are significant cultural and operational differences, such as strategic approaches to scale and operational discipline.

All hospitals serve patients, employ physicians and nurses, and operate in tightly regulated frameworks for clinical services. For-profit hospitals add a unique element to the mix: generating return for investors.

This additional ingredient gives the organizational culture at for-profits a subtly but significantly different flavor than the atmosphere at their nonprofit counterparts, says Yvette Doran, chief operating officer at Saint Thomas Medical Partners in Nashville, TN.

"When I think of the differences, culture is at the top of my list. The culture at for-profits is business-driven. The culture at nonprofits is service-driven," she says.

Doran says the differences between for-profits and nonprofits reflect cultural nuances rather than cultural divides. "Good hospitals need both. Without the business aspects on one hand, and the service aspects on the other, you can't function well."

There are five primary differences between for-profit and nonprofit hospitals.

1. Tax Status

The most obvious difference between nonprofit and for-profit hospitals is tax status, and it has a major impact financially on hospitals and the communities they serve.

Hospital payment of local and state taxes is a significant benefit for municipal and state governments, says Gary D. Willis, CPA, a former for-profit health system CFO who currently serves as CFO at Amedisys Inc., a home health, hospice, and personal care company in Baton Rouge, LA. The taxes that for-profit hospitals pay support "local schools, development of roads, recruitment of business and industry, and other needed services," he says.

The financial burden of paying taxes influences corporate culture—emphasizing cost consciousness and operational discipline, says Andrew Slusser, senior vice president at Brentwood, TN-based RCCH Healthcare Partners.

Christopher Cheney

Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care​ editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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