Top HealthGrades hospitals have 46% lower risk of inpatient infections
Almost two weeks after HealthGrades released its 2011 50 Best Hospitals report, a study evaluating patient safety found that patients treated at its top-rated hospitals have a 46 percent lower risk of experiencing a patient safety incident.

The assessment of the HealthGrades report—HealthGrades Patient Safety in American Hospitals—released earlier this week, analyzed 40 million Medicare patient records from 2007 to 2009 to identify preventable medical incidents that occur during hospitalizations.

Using the 13 patient safety indicators put forth by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)—excessive bruising or bleeding, bloodstream infections, bed sores and foreign objects left in the body, among others—the researchers showed that while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shown that overall infection rates have dropped, there is still a wide gap between hospitals and their progress to reduce infection rates.

There were a total of 708,642 patient safety events that affected 667,828 Medicare beneficiaries during the study period.

Results of the study showed that patients treated at hospitals performing in the top 5 percent in the nation for patient safety were 30 percent less likely to contract a hospital-acquired bloodstream infection and were 39 percent less likely to suffer from post-surgical sepsis.

The 13 patient safety indicators were associated with $7.3 billion in excess costs—an additional $181.17 per Medicare patient hospitalization. One in six patients who developed a hospital-acquired infection died, according to the report.

“The fact remains that there are huge, life-and-death consequences associated with where a patient chooses to seek hospital care," said Rick May, MD, HealthGrades vice president of clinical quality services and co-author of the study. "Until we bridge that gap, HealthGrades urges patients to research the patient safety ratings of hospitals in their community and know what steps they can take to protect themselves from error before being admitted."

The study also showed that four patient safety indicators—death among surgical inpatients with serious treatable complications, pressure ulcers, post-operative respiratory failure and post-operative sepsis—accounted for 68.5 percent of overall patient safety events over the three-year study period.

Lastly, HealthGrades noted that if all hospitals performed at the same level as the 268 Patient Safety Excellence Award Hospitals (found here), 174,358 patient safety events could have been avoided, 20,688 seniors may have survived hospitalizations and the government could have potentially saved an estimated $1.8 billion in excess healthcare costs.

The best-performing states for all 13 patient safety events were: Iowa, Vermont, Minnesota, Nebraska, Delaware, Massachusetts, Hawaii, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.