Study: Patient outcomes vary significantly by region

A compass pointing to the word "quality."
Patient outcomes can vary widely by geographic region, a new study has found. (Photo credit: Getty/Olivier Le Moal)

Patient outcomes can vary widely by geographic region, a new study has found.

The research, published in PLOS ONE, found that outcomes fluctuate significantly among regions and hospitals. Patients treated at low-quality hospitals are three times as likely to die and 13 times as likely to face complications compared to those at better-quality facilities, according to the study.

The researchers also note that some health facilities perform specific procedures at a high level, but may not be the best care option for patients with conditions that are not in their wheelhouse.

“Fundamentally, there is sort of an implicit assumption that every hospital is the same,” Barry Rosenberg, M.D., the study’s lead author and a partner at the Boston Consulting Group in Chicago, told The New York Times.

The study team examined data from 22 million inpatient hospital stays, which included both Medicare beneficiaries and patients with private insurance, on two dozen care outcome measures. The results were adjusted for factors like age and how ill the patients were, and they agreed to keep the names of hospitals confidential.

The researchers note that previous studies examined costs and availability of care in different geographic regions, but outcomes based on region had yet to be examined. The results show that assumptions of uniform care quality should be challenged, and that the U.S. health system can do more to improve outcomes. 

Hospitals have a lot of room for improvement in regards to patient safety, but better collaboration between facets of the healthcare system and evolving trends like evidence-based medicine can lead to better outcomes for patients.