NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 19, 2006

Before you check into a hospital, it may be wise to check out the hospital's quality. That's because treatment outcomes at U.S. hospitals vary widely, depending on which state, city or individual hospital provides the care, according to a new report, "HealthGrades Hospital Quality in America Study."

According to the researchers:

  • Patients have a 69 percent lower risk of dying at "5-star" hospitals compared with "1-star" institutions.
  • The gap between the best- and worst-performing hospitals has actually widened by about 5 percent since last year's report -- even though overall hospital death rates have dropped by almost 8 percent.
  • Across 28 conditions, like heart failure and heart attack, and procedures, like bypass surgery, knee replacement, etc., there is a large variation between hospitals; some of these differences can be quite large -- up to 90 percent.
  • In fact, if all hospitals were 5-star rated, the lives of 302,403 Medicare patients could have been saved from 2003 through 2005.
  • Some 50 percent of preventable deaths were linked to just four diagnoses, including heart failure, community-acquired pneumonia, sepsis (blood infection) and respiratory failure, the researchers found.

For example, a patient undergoing coronary bypass surgery has a 72.9 percent lower risk of dying if the procedure is done at a 5-star hospital, compared with a 1-star hospital. If all Medicare-covered bypass patients had the procedure done in 5-star hospitals, 5,308 lives would have been saved between 2003-2005.

Researchers also found that the risk of dying in a hospital improved nearly 8 percent from 2003 to 2005. However, this improvement varied widely by procedure and diagnosis.

In addition, 5-star hospitals had significantly lower death rates for all three years of the study and showed a 19 percent improvement in quality compared to just "average" hospitals.

Source: "U.S. Hospital Outcomes Vary Widely,", October 16, 2006; based upon: "The Ninth Annual HealthGrades Hospital Quality in America Study," Health Grades, October 2006.


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