More hospital procedures mean better patient safety

Contrary to some research, hospitals with larger volumes of procedures have better patient safety. A new study in the journal Health Services Research found that hospital volume is inversely related to preventable adverse events.

"That means that the more procedures these hospitals were performing, the lower rates they would have of adverse events," said lead author Tina Hernandez-Boussard in a Health Behavior News Service article.

Researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine examined the rates of nine different adverse events in hospitalized patients after three surgical procedures.

In almost every case, hospitals with higher surgical volume--more than 28 procedures per year for abdominal aortic aneurysm, more than 245 for heart bypass surgery, and more than 89 for gastric bypass surgery--had fewer adverse events than hospitals with low volumes of surgery.

The findings suggest that hospitals below a certain surgical volume shouldn't be doing the procedure, Dr. David Bates, executive director of the Center for Patient Safety Research and Practice and chief of general internal medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital, told Health Behavior News.

The study also supports recent research from Johns Hopkins University, which found that heart transplant patients had better outcomes at high-volume hospitals, as well as a New England Journal of Medicine study that showed patients hospitalized for heart attack, heart failure, and pneumonia had better chances of survival when treated at busier hospitals.

Hospitals should heed the implications that the volume of procedures performed at a facility has an effect on outcomes and safety as they try to attract more patients, particularly those who consider hospital volume when choosing where to receive care.

For more information:
- read the Health Behavior News Service article
- here's the study abstract