Better emergency care could have prevented 120,000 deaths, report finds

Nearly 120,000 deaths could have been prevented had all hospitals throughout the U.S. performed to the same standard as those hospitals in the top 5 percent of HealthGrades' new annual study examining emergency care. 

The study looked at the risk-adjusted mortality data of more than 4,900 hospitals nationwide from 2006 to 2008, specifically focusing on 11 common life-threatening diagnoses: bowel obstruction, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetic acidosis and coma, gastrointestinal bleed, heart attack, pancreatitis, pneumonia, pulmonary embolism, respiratory failure, sepsis and stroke. 

"Half of hospital admissions now begin with hospital emergency departments, up from 36 percent in 1996," said Dr. Rick May, a HealthGrades vice president and co-author of the study according to a press release. "With more individuals expected to visit emergency departments, this HealthGrades study should prove to be a valuable resource for both hospitals and patients in that it identifies hospitals that are the nation's quality leaders in emergency medical care." 

The top 5 percent of hospitals (255) had a 39 percent lower risk-adjusted mortality rate than all of the other hospitals. States with the worst rates were Mississippi, Alabama and Hawaii; Ohio, Arizona and Michigan had the best rates, respectively. 

"Some consumers may question the usefulness of this type of information in an emergent situation," the study says. "However, because there are large quality variations between hospitals, it is important for consumers to understand the hospital quality landscape in their immediate area and to be prepared when an emergent situation arises."

To learn more:
- read this press release
- here's the study