Healthgrades: Increased risk of complications or death at low-rated hospitals


Patients are far more at risk for complications or death at hospitals receiving low Healthgrades ratings, according to a new report from the Denver-based researcher. 

Based on three years of Medicare outcomes data for 40 million patient records, the report found that patients are statistically far more likely to die or experience complications in hospitals that received one star from Healthgrades than those that received five stars, even in hospitals within the same community.

"Do not assume the closest hospital is the best for the necessary procedure," Susan Roughton, Healthgrades director of quality measurement and Sonja Baro, director of quality products and mediam, wrote in the analysis.

The report analyzed six mortality-based procedures and conditions and found that when comparing hospitals receiving a five-star rating to those receiving one star:

  • COPD patients had an 81 percent lower mortality risk;

  • Pneumonia patients had a 65.9 percent lower risk;

  • Stroke patients had a 54.6 percent lower risk;

  • Heart attack patients had a 48.1 percent lower risk;

  • Colorectal surgery patients had a 70.4 percent lower risk; and

  • Sepsis patients had a 41.9 percent lower risk.

Researchers also analyzed the relationship between complications and mortality and direct hospital costs--that is, costs incurred caring for a patient during their stay. They found that complications during a procedure nearly double a hospital's direct costs. Patient mortality, meanwhile, tripled hospital costs.

"Consumers need accurate information to make meaningful choices between plans," Healthgrades Strategic Advisor Archelle Georgiou, M.D., said in a statement. "With the Affordable Care Act expanding access to care, it's more important than ever to understand your options, including the quality of care offered at the hospitals and affiliated physicians in your plan."  

A February Healthgrades analysis found that nearly 90 percent of patients said a hospital's mortality rate for a procedure would affect their decision to receive treatment there. However, in January of this year, Texas County Memorial Hospital disputed the methodology used in such ratings after receiving a failing grade from the Leapfrog Group, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the report (.pdf)