HealthGrades honors hospitals with superior outcomes in women's care

Gender appears to play a tremendous role in patients' outcomes for a variety of hospital treatments and procedures, according to the HealthGrades Seventh Annual Women's Health in American Hospitals Study.

Researchers analyzed nearly 7 million hospitalization records from the nation's nearly 5,000 nonfederal hospitals and made the following comparisons of men's and women's risk-adjusted, in-hospital mortality rates for several conditions:

  • Women had a 52.8 percent higher risk of mortality following valve-replacement surgery, a 36.6 percent higher death risk with coronary bypass surgery, a 19.5 percent higher mortality risk associated with coronary interventional procedures and a 5.8 percent higher risk of dying after a stroke.
  • Women had a 16.4 percent lower risk of death following treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a 12.8 percent lower mortality risk following heart failure, a 10.6 percent lower risk for pneumonia and a 2.4 percent lower risk of death following treatment for a heart attack.

"The finding that women's outcomes vary so dramatically from men's is surprising not in its result, as this disparity has been documented before, especially in cardiovascular care, but in its magnitude," said Rick May, MD, a vice president with HealthGrades and an author of the study.

Those disparities, according to an April 5 piece in the Los Angeles Times may have something to do with the way heart disease develops differently in men and women--with women more prone to less-understood blockages of microvessels rather than their coronary arteries.

Each year since 1984, more women overall (432,709 in 2006) have died of cardiovascular disease than men (398,563 in 2006), the Times reports. But more men experience and die of coronary heart disease and heart attacks than do women each year. Men develop heart disease on average 10 years earlier than women. But women who have a heart attack seem to fare worse right after the event and also suffer a poorer quality of life.

It's also notable that this report arrives on the heels of a study in the British Medical Journal criticizing the use of inpatient mortality rates as being inadequate to judge a hospital's quality. Nonetheless, for women who want to boost their odds, HealthGrades has honored hospitals with women's patient outcomes in the top 5 percent with its 2010/2011 HealthGrades Women's Health Excellence Award. The data suggests that if all hospitals nationwide performed at the level of the Award recipient hospitals, a total of 16,863 women could have potentially survived their hospitalization and 4,735 women could have potentially avoided a major in-hospital complication.

To learn more:
- read this article from The Medical News
- here's the HealthGrades announcement
- here's the study
- read this related Los Angeles Times piece