News | February 04, 2007

Chances for Survival are Greater at High-Quality Hospitals, Study Shows

Feb. 5, 2007 - People treated at high-quality hospitals are more likely to survive and less likely to develop complications, according to a new report on more than 5,000 U.S. hospitals.

"Do your homework and do your research before you check in," Dr. Samantha Collier, senior vice president for medical affairs at HealthGrades, the Golden, Colorado-based independent health care ratings company that produced the rankings, told Reuters Health.

Patients who went to one of the 266 top hospitals were 28 percent more likely to survive treatment for 16 different diagnoses or procedures, including coronary bypass surgery, heart attack, pneumonia, and stroke, according to HealthGrades' fifth annual Hospital Quality and Clinical Excellence study. They were 5 percent less likely to develop complications after 10 procedures, including total knee replacement, hip fracture repair, prostatectomy and gall bladder removal.

The report covers 40 million Medicare hospital discharges from 2003-2005. Based on the findings, HealthGrades says, 158,264 lives could have been saved and 12,410 complications avoided if all of these patients went to a top hospital for care.

The study ranks hospitals based on mortality and complication rates for 26 different procedures and diagnoses. If a hospital fares better than expected in a particular area, it receives five stars; three stars for performance that met but didn't exceed expectations; and one star for significantly worse-than-expected performance. HealthGrades names those with the highest scores "Distinguished Hospitals for Clinical Excellence."

Consumers can search for star ratings based on diagnosis at www.healthgrades.com, and can also order a full quality report on a particular hospital for free.

Thirteen states, including Nevada, New Mexico, Vermont, and Maine, had no Distinguished Hospitals for Clinical Excellence. Others had several; for example, 10 of Minnesota's 17 hospitals received the top ranking, as did 46 of Florida's 91 hospitals.

If a person lives in a state without a top hospital, he or she can check out local hospitals' scores for a surgery they need to have, or the diagnosis for which they require treatment, Collier said. A hospital that didn't make it to the top tier might still have five-star performance for hip replacement surgery, for example, she explained.

Also, she noted, patients are increasingly willing to travel in order to get the best quality care. "Although you may not have (a top hospital) in your backyard, it doesn't mean you don't have access to one."

SOURCE: HealthGrades Fifth Annual Hospital Quality and Clinical Excellence Study, January 2007.

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