Hospital Safety Varies Widely Nationwide: Report

Where patients go for treatment can mean the difference between life and death, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, March 9 (HealthDay News) -- Certain types of medical errors are 46 percent less likely to occur at top-rated U.S. hospitals than bottom-ranked hospitals, according to a new study.

HealthGrades researchers analyzed 40 million Medicare patient records from 2007 to 2009 and focused on 13 patient safety indicators, such as bed sores, bloodstream infections from catheters, foreign objects left in the body after procedures and excessive bleeding or bruising after surgery.

The patient safety indicators published by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality were used to identify preventable medical errors and which hospitals were in the top 5 percent for avoiding those errors.

Nationwide, hospitals varied widely in their performance, according to the annual HealthGrades Patient Safety in American Hospitals report, but some hospitals have made significant improvements, said study co-author Dr. Rick May, HealthGrades vice president of clinical quality service.

The 10 cities with the best performing hospitals included: Minneapolis-St. Paul; Wichita, Kan.; Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio; Wilkes-Barre, Pa.; Boston; Greenville, S.C.; Honolulu; Charlotte, N.C.; and Oklahoma City.

"But the fact remains that there are huge, life-and-death consequences associated with where a patient chooses to seek hospital care," May said in a HealthGrades news release. "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."

Among the other findings:

  • Patients in top-ranked hospitals were 30 percent less likely to contract a hospital-acquired bloodstream infection and 39 percent less likely to suffer from post-surgical sepsis than those at low-rated hospitals. Those infections can be deadly: Nearly one in six patients who acquired a bloodstream infection while hospitalized died.
  • Patients treated at top-ranked hospitals were 52 percent less likely to experience a central-line bloodstream infection.
  • During the three years included in the study, four patient safety indicators accounted for more than two-thirds of all patient safety events. These indictors were: death among surgical inpatients with serious treatable complications, pressure ulcers, post-operative respiratory failure and post-operative sepsis.
  • The 13 patient safety indicators included in the study were associated with $7.3 billion in additional costs, or $181 per Medicare patient hospitalization.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers 10 things you can do to be a safe patient.

Robert Preidt SOURCE: HealthGrades, news release, March 9, 2011

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