According to a study released today by HealthGrades, a leading independent healthcare ratings company, patients treated at top-rated hospitals nationwide have nearly a one-third better chance of surviving, on average, than those admitted to all other hospitals.
The researchers have also found that the patients who undergo surgery at these high-performing hospitals also have an average 5% lower risk of complications during their stay.
The annual HealthGrades Hospital Quality and Clinical Excellence study, now in its fifth year, identifies hospitals in the top five percent nationally in terms of mortality and complication rates for 26 procedures and diagnoses, from bypass surgery to stroke. Hospitals achieving this level of care quality are designated Distinguished Hospitals for Clinical Excellence by HealthGrades and are identified on the organization's consumer Web site, HealthGrades.com.
Disparities in the level of care patients receive, based simply on where they choose to seek treatment, highlight a troubling phenomenon in the U.S. healthcare system: a preventable, but growing gap between high-quality hospitals and the rest of the field.
The 2007 study found that 158,264 lives may have been saved and 12,409 major complications avoided, had the quality of care at all hospitals matched the level of those in the top five percent.
To name hospitals in the top five percent for clinical excellence, the HealthGrades' study analyzes nearly 39 million hospitalizations over the years 2003, 2004 and 2005 at all 5,122 of the nation's nonfederal hospitals.
In comparing Distinguished Hospitals for Clinical Excellence with all other hospitals, the HealthGrades study finds:
· On average, a 28 percent lower risk of mortality was experienced by Medicare patients at Distinguished Hospitals for Clinical Excellence in the following procedures and diagnoses: cardiac surgery, angioplasty and stent, heart attack, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, community-acquired pneumonia, stroke, abdominal aortic aneurysm repair, bowel obstruction, gastrointestinal bleed, pancreatitis, diabetic acidosis and coma, pulmonary embolism and sepsis.
· For those same procedures and diagnoses, Distinguished Hospitals for Clinical excellence had more than twice as much improvement in hospital complications as all other hospitals, lowering mortality rates over the years 2003, 2004 and 2005 by an average 12 (11.74) percent.
· Medicare patients had, on average, a 5 percent lower risk of post-operative complications at a Distinguished Hospital for Clinical Excellence for diagnoses and procedures that include orthopedic and neurosurgery, vascular surgery, prostate surgery and gall bladder surgery.
· For those same procedures and diagnoses, Distinguished Hospitals reduced post-surgical complication rates by 3.39 percent.
Seventy-five percent of this year's Distinguished Hospitals for Clinical Excellence are being recognized by HealthGrades for the second consecutive year.
"The data in this year's study clearly indicate continued improvement in reducing preventable deaths and complications in U.S. hospitals," said Samantha Collier, MD, HealthGrades' senior vice president of medical affairs. "HealthGrades commends those hospitals for achieving consistent, high-quality care, not just in one or two specialties, but across the board, from orthopedic surgery to cardiac care. However, the continued gap between the nation's top and poorest-performing hospitals continues."