HealthGrades: Top hospitals have 27 percent lower mortality

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Medicare patients treated at U.S. top-rated hospitals for the most common diagnoses and procedures are 27 percent less likely to die, on average, than those admitted to all other hospitals, according to a study released Jan. 27 by HealthGrades, an independent healthcare ratings organization. Patients who undergo surgery at these hospitals also have an average 8 percent lower risk of complications during their stay.

The “HealthGrades Seventh Annual Hospital Quality and Clinical Excellence” study identified hospitals in the top 5 percent in the United States, in terms of mortality and complication rates across 26 procedures and diagnoses, from heart attacks to total knee replacement.

The 2009 study of Medicare patients found that 152,666 lives may have been saved and 11,772 major complications avoided during the three years studied, had the quality of care at all hospitals matched the level of those in the top 5 percent. 

“This study echoes others that have found distinct quality gaps between top-performing hospitals and others,” said study author Rick May, MD, HealthGrades senior physician consultant. 

In comparing hospitals in the top five percent, with all other hospitals, the study found:

  • The 27 percent lower risk of in-hospital risk-adjusted mortality was experienced by Medicare patients at the Distinguished Hospitals in the following procedures: cardiac surgery; angioplasty and stent; heart attack; heart failure; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; pneumonia; stroke; abdominal aortic aneurysm repair; diabetic acidosis and coma; pulmonary embolism and respiratory failure.
  • For those same procedures and diagnoses, the hospitals improved at a greater rate than other hospitals, lowering in-hospital risk-adjusted mortality rates over 2005, 2006 and 2007 by an average 18 percent, compared to 13 percent for the others.
  • Medicare patients had, on average, an eight percent lower risk of in-hospital complications at the performing hospitals for diagnoses and procedures that include orthopedic and neurosurgery, vascular surgery and prostate surgery
  • For those same procedures and diagnoses, Distinguished Hospitals reduced in-hospital complication rates by 3.92 percent from 2005 to 2007, compared to 2.51 percent for all other hospitals.

HealthGrades said it independently analyzed nearly 41 million patient records from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for fiscal years 2005, 2006 and 2007, for 26 medical procedures and diagnoses at nearly all of the 5,000 non-federal hospitals.
Individuals can see how their local hospitals are rated, and if they have been designated Distinguished Hospitals for Clinical Excellence, for free at