America's Top Hospitals Are Real Lifesavers

MONDAY Oct. 15, 2007 -- Patients in the top-ranked hospitals in the United States are 71 percent less likely to die than those in the lowest-rated hospitals, according to a new study from the health-care ratings company HealthGrades.

The 10th annual HealthGrades Hospital Quality in America Study looked at 41 million Medicare hospitalization records at 5,000 hospitals from 2004 to 2006.

The study authors contend that if all hospitals performed at the level of the top five-star rated hospitals, the lives of 266,604 Medicare patients could have been saved over those three years.

The hospital rankings are based on 18 procedures and medical conditions, ranging from pneumonia and heart attack to valve-replacement surgery.

The study found that overall death rates at American hospitals declined 11.8 percent from 2004 to 2006, with a 12.8 percent decline at the top-rated hospitals and a 11.4 percent decline at the lowest-ranked hospitals.

Of the procedures and conditions included in the study, the largest declines in death rates were noted for pancreatitis (19.2 percent), pulmonary embolism (17.4 percent) and diabetic acidosis and coma (16.6 percent). The smallest declines were seen in resection/replacement of the abdominal aorta (0.4 percent), coronary procedures such as angioplasties and stents (0.8 percent), and heart attack treatments (8.9 percent).

"While we are pleased to see that the hospital industry's focus on improving care quality has continued to reduce mortality rates, a significant variation in quality among the nation's best- and poorest-performing hospitals persists," study co-author Dr. Samantha Collier, who is HealthGrades' chief medical officer, said in a prepared statement.

"Concentrating on emulating practices from exemplary hospitals can result in improvement. If this focus were targeted to four key quality areas -- heart failure, respiratory failure, sepsis and pneumonia -- the nation could achieve up to a 50 percent reduction in potentially preventable deaths," Collier said.

More information

Here's more on the quality of health care from the Agency for HealthCare Research and Quality.

Posted: October 2007


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