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Hospital Safety Varies Widely Nationwide, Study Says | Holly Hill Injury Lawyer

Hospital Safety Varies Widely Nationwide, Study Says

A new study shows that patients have a 46 percent lower risk of experiencing a patient safety incident at a top-rated hospital compared to a poorly rated hospital.

The findings are from the annual HealthGrades Patient Safety in American Hospitals study, which analyzed 40 million Medicare patient records, from 2007 to 2009. HealthGrades utilized the patient safety indicators published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to identify preventable medical mistakes that occurred during patients’ hospitalizations.

Study findings show that, despite encouraging research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing reductions in hospital acquired bloodstream infections in certain patients, progress is inconsistent. Some hospitals have made rapid progress in reducing infection rates, but hospitals continue to show wide variation in their rates.

For example, HealthGrades found that patients treated at those hospitals performing in the top 5 percent in the nation for patient safety were, on average, 52 percent less likely to contract a hospital-acquired bloodstream infection or to suffer from post-surgical sepsis than those treated at poor-performing hospitals. Nearly one in six patients who acquired a bloodstream infection while in the hospital died, the study found.

“HealthGrades commends the efforts of those hospitals that are focused on providing consistent, safe and effective medical care,” said Dr. Rick May, HealthGrades vice president of clinical quality services and co-author of the study, in a press release. “But the fact remains that there are huge, life-and-death consequences associated with where a patient chooses to seek hospital care. Until we bridge that gap, patients are urged to research the patient safety ratings of hospitals in their community and know what steps they can take to protect themselves from error before being admitted.”

Other key findings of the HealthGrades Patient Safety in American Hospitals study include:

  • Four patient safety indicators (death among surgical inpatients with serious treatable complications, pressure ulcer, post-operative respiratory failure, and post-operative sepsis) accounted for 68.51 percent of all patient safety events during the three years analyzed.
  • The 13 patient safety events studied were associated with $7.3 billion of excess cost, which equates to an additional $181.17 per Medicare patient hospitalization.
  • Preventable medical errors are so pervasive and costly that the federal government has proposed linking incentive-based hospital compensation to four of the AHRQ Patient Safety Indicators, starting in 2014. In addition, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are currently developing a 10-year, $70 billion plan aimed at reducing hospital-acquired infections.

HealthGrades used the AHRQ’s 13 patient safety indicators – incidents such as foreign objects left in a body following a procedure, excessive bruising or bleeding as a result of surgery, bloodstream infections from catheters, and bed sores – to identify those hospitals performing in the top five percent in the nation.

HealthGrades Patient Safety in American Hospitals study also found regional variation in the prevalence of medical errors and preventable deaths and complications. Rankings by state and by metropolitan area can be found in the full study. The 10 U.S. cities with the lowest incidence of patient safety incidents are: Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN; Wichita, KS; Cleveland, OH; Wilkes-Barre, PA; Toledo, OH; Boston, MA; Greenville, SC; Honolulu, HI; Charlotte, NC; and Oklahoma City, OK.

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