Top-rated hospitals continue to perform better, have fewer deaths

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Patients treated at top-rated hospitals across the United States are nearly one-third less likely to die, on average, than those admitted to all other hospitals, according to a study released by HealthGrades, an independent healthcare ratings organization.

The report found that patients who undergo surgery at high-performing hospitals also have an average five percent lower risk of complications during their stay.

The annual HealthGrades Hospital Quality and Clinical Excellence study, now in its sixth year, identifies hospitals in the top five percent nationally in terms of mortality and complication rates for 27 procedures and diagnoses, from bypass surgery to total knee replacement.

HealthGrades said its study analyzed nearly 41 million hospitalizations during the years 2004, 2005 and 2006 at all 4,971 of the nation’s nonfederal hospitals. 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 persistent and preventable gap between high-quality hospitals and the rest of the field.

The study found that 171,424 lives may have been saved and 9,671 major complications avoided during the three years studied had the quality of care at all hospitals matched the level of those in the top five percent.

Among the top five percent, designated as Distinguished Hospitals for Clinical Excellence, the HealthGrades study found:

  • On average, a 27 percent lower risk of in-hospital, risk-adjusted mortality was experienced by Medicare patients at the Distinguished Hospitals in many procedures and diagnoses, including cardiac surgery, angioplasty and stent and stroke.
  • The Distinguished Hospitals lowered in-hospital, risk-adjusted mortality rates over the years 2004, 2005 and 2006 by an average of 15 percent compared to other hospitals.
  • Medicare patients averaged a five percent lower risk of in-hospital, post-operative complications at a Distinguished Hospital for diagnoses and procedures that include orthopedic and neurosurgery, vascular surgery and prostate surgery.
  • For the same procedures and diagnoses, the Distinguished Hospitals reduced in-hospital, post-surgical complication rates by 2.35 percent from 2004 to 2006, more than twice as much improvement as all other hospitals.

“HealthGrades acknowledges the tremendous commitment of the select group of hospitals that have achieved consistent, high-quality care, not just in one or two specialties, but across the board, from orthopedic surgery to cardiac care,” according to Samantha Collier, MD, HealthGrades chief medical officer.

“However, the data in this year’s study clearly indicates that the gap between top-performing hospitals and others persists. This disparity in the quality of care at U.S. hospitals is disappointing. Distinguished Hospitals for Clinical Excellence have proven that consistently delivering top-notch medical care is possible and it is time for the rest to follow suit,” Collier said.