Applications of data envelopment analysis in acute care hospitals: a systematic literature review, 1984–2022

Dinesh R. Pai, Fatma Pakdil, Nasibeh Azadeh-Fard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study reviews scholarly publications on data envelopment analysis (DEA) studies on acute care hospital (ACH) efficiency published between 1984 and 2022 in scholarly peer-reviewed journals. We employ systematic literature review (SLR) method to identify and analyze pertinent past research using predetermined steps. The SLR offers a comprehensive resource that meticulously analyzes DEA methodology for practitioners and researchers focusing on ACH efficiency measurement. The articles reviewed in the SLR are analyzed and synthesized based on the nature of the DEA modelling process and the key findings from the DEA models. The key findings from the DEA models are presented under the following sections: effects of different ownership structures; impacts of specific healthcare reforms or other policy interventions; international and multi-state comparisons; effects of changes in competitive environment; impacts of new technology implementations; effects of hospital location; impacts of quality management interventions; impact of COVID-19 on hospital performance; impact of teaching status, and impact of merger. Furthermore, the nature of DEA modelling process focuses on use of sensitivity analysis; choice of inputs and outputs; comparison with Stochastic Frontier Analysis; use of congestion analysis; use of bootstrapping; imposition of weight restrictions; use of DEA window analysis; and exogenous factors. The findings demonstrate that, despite several innovative DEA extensions and hospital applications, over half of the research used the conventional DEA models. The findings also show that the most often used inputs in the DEA models were labor-oriented inputs and hospital beds, whereas the most frequently used outputs were outpatient visits, followed by surgeries, admissions, and inpatient days. Further research on the impact of healthcare reforms and health information technology (HIT) on hospital performance is required, given the number of reforms being implemented in many countries and the role HIT plays in enhancing care quality and lowering costs. We conclude by offering several new research directions for future studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalHealth Care Management Science
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • General Health Professions

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