America's Top Hospitals Cut Patient Death Rate 27%

If all centers performed as well, nearly 153,000 lives might be saved annually, report finds

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TUESDAY, Jan. 27 (HealthDay News) The top-rated U.S. hospitals have a 27 percent lower death rate than other hospitals, according to a study released Tuesday by HealthGrades, an independent health care ratings organization.

Researchers analyzed the records of about 41 million Medicare patients treated at the nation's almost 5,000 non-federal hospitals. The study of data from fiscal years 2005, 2006 and 2007 focused on 26 common diagnoses and procedures, including heart failure, heart attack, stroke, pneumonia, angioplasty, gastrointestinal surgeries and sepsis.

Patients treated at hospitals ranked in the top 5 percent nationally had a 27 percent lower risk of in-hospital death, the report found. In 2005, 2006 and 2007, the top-rated hospitals lowered their in-hospital risk-adjusted death rates by an average of 18 percent, compared to 13 percent for all other hospitals.

The study also found that patients at the highest-performing hospitals had an 8 percent lower risk of complications for diagnoses and procedures that include orthopedic and neurosurgery, vascular surgery, prostate surgery and gall bladder surgery. From 2005 to 2007, the top-rated hospitals reduced in-hospital complication rates by more than 3.9 percent, compared to about 2.5 percent for all other hospitals.

In fact, if the quality of care at all hospitals matched that of the top-rated hospitals, 152,666 lives may have been saved, and 11,772 major complications may have been avoided during the three years, according to HealthGrades Seventh Annual Hospital Quality and Clinical Excellence study.

"This study echoes others that have found distinct quality gaps between top-performing hospitals and others. Distinguished Hospitals for Clinical Excellence comprise a group of hospitals that excels across the board, not just in one or two specialties, and they should be commended for their relentless commitment to exceptional patient care," Dr. Rick May, HealthGrades senior physician consultant and an author of the study, said in a news release.

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