Feb. 1, 2007 - Patients treated at top-rated hospitals nationwide are nearly one-third less likely to die, on average, than those admitted to all other hospitals, according to a study released today by HealthGrades, an independent healthcare ratings company. Patients who undergo surgery at these high-performing hospitals also have an average five percent lower risk of complications during their stay, researchers found.
The annual HealthGrades Hospital Quality and Clinical Excellence study, now in its fifth year, identifies hospitals in the top five percent nationally in terms of mortality and complication rates for 26 procedures and diagnoses, from bypass surgery to stroke. Hospitals achieving this level of care are designated Distinguished Hospitals for Clinical Excellence by HealthGrades and are identified on the organization's consumer Web site, HealthGrades.com.
Disparities in the care patients receive, based simply on where they choose to seek treatment, highlight a troubling phenomenon in the U.S. healthcare system: a preventable gap between high-quality hospitals and the rest of the field.
The 2007 study found that 158,264 lives may have been saved and 12,410 major complications avoided during the 3 years studied, had the quality of care at all hospitals matched the level of those in the top five percent. These major complications include problems like post-op pneumonia, post-op respiratory failure, post-op bacterial infections, or post-op bleeding.
To name hospitals in the top five percent for clinical excellence, the HealthGrades' study analyzed nearly 39 million hospitalizations over the years 2003, 2004 and 2005 at all 4,971 of the nation's nonfederal, nonchildren's, short-term acute care hospitals.
In comparing Distinguished Hospitals for Clinical Excellence with all other hospitals, the HealthGrades study found:
On average, a 28 percent lower inhospital risk-adjusted mortality was experienced by Medicare patients at Distinguished Hospitals for Clinical Excellence in the following procedures and diagnoses: cardiac surgery, angioplasty and stent, heart attack, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, community-acquired pneumonia, stroke, abdominal aortic aneurysm repair, bowel obstruction, gastrointestinal bleed, pancreatitis, diabetic acidosis and coma, pulmonary embolism and sepsis.
For those same procedures and diagnoses, Distinguished Hospitals for Clinical excellence improved at a greater rate than other hospitals, lowering inhospital risk-adjusted mortality rates over the years 2003, 2004 and 2005 by an average 11.74 percent.
Medicare patients had, on average, a 5 percent lower risk of inhospital post-operative complications at a Distinguished Hospital for Clinical Excellence for diagnoses and procedures that include orthopedic and neurosurgery, vascular surgery, prostate surgery and gall bladder surgery.
For those same procedures and diagnoses, Distinguished Hospitals reduced inhospital post-surgical complication rates by 3.39 percent from 2003 to 2005, more than twice as much improvement as all other hospitals.
Seventy-five percent of this year's Distinguished Hospitals for Clinical Excellence are being recognized by HealthGrades for the second consecutive year.
"The data in this year's study clearly indicate continued improvement in reducing preventable deaths and complications in U.S. hospitals," said Samantha Collier, MD, HealthGrades' senior vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer. "HealthGrades commends those hospitals for achieving consistent, high-quality care, not just in one or two specialties, but across the board, from orthopedic surgery to cardiac care. However, the continued gap between the nation's top and lowest-performing hospitals continues."
Individuals can see how their local hospitals are rated, and if they have been designated Distinguished Hospitals for Clinical Excellence, for free at http://www.healthgrades.com.