Mortality rates vary, even in 'top cities'

Patient volume could jump at hospitals with the lowest risk-adjusted mortality rates in Dayton, Ohio; Phoenix, Milwaukee and Cincinnati. That's because 86 percent of patients said a hospital's mortality rate for a given procedure would strongly affect their decision to receive treatment at that facility, according to a new analysis from Healthgrades.

The top cities for hospital care boast in-hospital mortality rates below 5 percent. Such scores could attract patients from surrounding areas. For instance, 81 percent of patients would ask an ambulance driver to travel further if they thought their chance of survival was significantly better at another hospital.

However, the Denver-based researcher found significant variability in clinical outcomes among hospitals within service areas. Chicago's 18 hospitals have an 11-fold difference in mortality rates for heart attack. Seattle faces a four-fold difference in mortality rates for pneumonia treatment across its six hospitals, according to the report.

Last month, Healthgrades named the top 5 percent of U.S. hospitals for clinical outcomes. The 262 hospitals that received the 2013 Distinguished Hospitals Award for Clinical Excellence included El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, Calif., Exeter (N.H.) Hospital, and Hackensack (N.J.) University Medical Hospital, which have been making headlines for a lawsuit fighting an executive pay cap, a hepatitis C outbreak and emergency planning during Hurricane Sandy, respectively.

The Healthgrades list of top cities and best hospitals comes amid controversy over public hospital rankings. For instance, a conflict has been heating up between Texas County Memorial Hospital and the Leapfrog Group over a failing hospital safety grade. In exclusive interviews with FierceHealthcare, leaders from both organizations debated fairness and accuracy of quality reporting data.

For more:
- here's the HealthGrades announcement and report (.pdf)