NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 25, 2008

Hospitals are still the heart of the health care industry, consuming a third of the $2 trillion U.S. health care bill. Some are very good.  But many are not, brimming with infectious bugs, systemic error and negative hospitality.  And because the hospital industry does all it can to thwart competition, many communities are stuck with the hospitals they have, says Forbes magazine.

The presidential candidates are grappling over the plight of the uninsured, yet you're five times more likely to die from visiting a hospital than from not having health insurance, according to the not-for-profit Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths:

  • One in 200 patients who spends a night or more in a hospital will die from medical error.
  • One in 16 will pick up an infection.
  • Deaths from preventable hospital infections each year exceed 100,000, more than those from AIDS, breast cancer and auto accidents combined.

Patients have a choice, but it's not widespread yet, says Forbes.  It's called the specialty hospital, a center that focuses on the care of a particular body part such as the heart, spine or joints, or on a specific disease such as cancer:

  • There are 200 specialty hospitals in the United States (out of 6,000 hospitals overall), and they often deliver services better, more safely and at lower cost.
  • A recent University of Iowa study of tens of thousands of Medicare patients found that complication rates (bleeding, infections or death) are 40 percent lower for hip and knee surgeries at specialty hospitals than at big community hospitals.
  • A 2006 study funded by Medicare found that patients of all types are four times as likely to die in a full-service hospital after orthopedic surgery as they would after the same procedure in a specialty hospital.

Source:  David Whelan, "Bad Medicine," Forbes, March 10, 2007.

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