NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 15, 2008

The death rate at top-ranked U.S. hospitals is 70 percent lower than at the lowest-ranked hospitals, according to a study that examined 41 million patient records at the nation's approximately 5,000 hospitals over three years.

The 11th annual HealthGrades Hospital Quality in American Study focused on 17 procedures and found that overall death rates declined by 14.7 percent from 2005 to 2007.

Other major findings:

  • Top-performing five-star hospitals reduced their death rates at a much faster rate (about 13.2 percent) than poorer-performing one- and three-star hospitals (12.3 and 13.1 percent, respectively), resulting in large state, regional and hospital-to-hospital variations in the quality of patient care.
  • If all U.S. hospitals performed at the level of top-rated five-star hospitals, 237,420 Medicare patient deaths could potentially have been prevented from 2005 to 2007.
  • More than half (54 percent) of those deaths were associated with four conditions: sepsis (a life-threatening illness caused by systemic response to infection), pneumonia, heart failure and respiratory failure.

The East North Central region (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin) had the lowest overall risk-adjusted death rates, while the East South Central region (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee) had the highest death rates, according to the study released Oct. 14.

The East North Central region had the highest percentage of best-performing hospitals at 26 percent. Less than 7 percent of hospitals within the New England region (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont) were top-performing hospitals.

The greatest hospital death rate variations between states were noted in patients with heart failure, and those undergoing pulmonary, stroke and cardiac surgery.

"Geography should not be a major factor in patients' outcomes. If our nation's hospitals are to close the quality gap and guarantee an equally high level of medical care for every patient, no matter where he or she lives, it will require a commitment by our nation and its communities to demand more from quality improvement," said study author Dr. Samantha Collier, HealthGrades chief medical officer.

Source: Robert Preidt, "Death Rate 70% Lower at Top U.S. Hospitals; If all centers performed as well, over 237,000 lives might have been saved, survey finds,", Ocotber 14, 2008.


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