Medicare mortality rates drop

Though overall mortality rates for Medicare patients have dropped, a new study from HealthGrades shows that there are still major discrepancies between different areas of the country. The death rate at the top-ranked U.S. hospitals was 70 percent lower than at the lowest-ranked hospitals, and if all U.S. hospitals performed at the level of the top-rated five-star hospitals, 237,420 deaths could have been prevented from 2005 to 2007, the study found.

New England showed the greatest decrease in mortality rates, while the Pacific region showed the smallest decrease. The study found that overall, the in-hospital mortality rate improved by 14.2 percent. New England's regional results were substantially better, showing an 18 percent decrease, while the Pacific region only improved by 13 percent. The largest hospital death rate variations between states were found in patients with heart failure, along with those undergoing pulmonary, stroke and cardiac surgery.

These results were based on data collected from hospitals from 2005 to 2007. The mortality rates were calculated using information from more than 11 million Medicare discharges based on common causes of death.

To learn more about this study:
- read this Modern Healthcare piece (reg. req.)
- read this Washington Post piece