Hospital cardiac death rates unveiled to public for first time

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Last year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a broad comparison of death rates for heart attacks and heart failure, generally noting how hospitals compared with the national average, without releasing the actual death rates themselves. However, the agency decided to change their policy and disclose the figures to consumers this year.

The agency shared the information in advance with USA Today. CMS also posted its new mortality estimates on a government website, along with more than two dozen other measures of how well hospitals meet patients' needs.

When last year’s CMS report came out, Baylor All-Saints Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, one of the 11 hospitals in the Dallas-based system, was found to have a heart failure death rate of 14.6 percent, higher than the 11.1 percent average.

What leapt out of a review of the patients' records was that just 10 of 31 deaths occurred in the hospital, suggesting that some deaths were due to follow-up care by local doctors and nursing homes, Paul Convery, Baylor's chief medical officer told USA Today. "This was a signal that we have to be responsible for patients after they've left our halls.”

There are 115 hospitals, such as Virginia’s Danville Regional Medical Center that have been singled out for having higher death rates than the national average. In the new report, Danville has improved its statistics since last year—with current death rates for heart attack of 19.6 percent and for heart failure of 15.5 percent. Although its heart attack death rate is still high, it now falls within the average range.