Health Highlights: April 18, 2013

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The team analyzed the records of more than 34,000 patients who had surgery in 2010 at one of 12 hospitals operated by Texas Health Resources. Of those, 1,820 had one or more preventable surgical complications, such as blood clots, pneumonia or infected incisions, The Times reported.

The median length of stay for patients with these complications was 14 days, about four times longer than for patients without complications. Hospital revenue averaged $49,400 for a patient with complications and $18,900 for a patient without complications, according to the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers said they are not suggested that hospitals are trying to make money by deliberately causing surgical complications or refusing to remedy the problem. But they said the current payment system makes it difficult for hospitals to make changes because improvements in patient care can end up costing them money, The Times reported.

Speaking to HealthDay, Dr. David Troxel, medical director of The Doctors Company, the leading provider of malpractice insurance in the United States, said that "reducing the incidence of preventable post-surgical complications is an important patient safety goal."

He added that the study "points out how difficult it is in our complex health care delivery system to align hospitals' financial incentives with needed system improvements in order to achieve improved patient outcomes."

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