Study: Patients safer in top-rated hospitals

Patients in a top-rated hospital are 46 percent less likely to experience medical errors compared to those treated in a bottom-ranked hospital, concludes a study of patient safety in U.S hospitals by HealthGrades.

HealthGrades analyzed 40 million Medicare patient records from 2007 to 2009. The annual study showed that while some hospitals have reduced infection rates, a significant gap in progress persists.

For example, HealthGrades found that patients treated at hospitals performing in the top 5 percent in the nation for patient safety were 52 percent less likely to contract a hospital-acquired bloodstream infection or to suffer from post-surgical sepsis than those treated at poor-performing hospitals. And nearly one in six patients who acquired a bloodstream infection while in the hospital died, the study found.

"[T]he fact remains that there are huge, life-and-death consequences associated with where a patient chooses to seek hospital care," said study co-author Rick May, vice president of clinical quality services at HealthGrades. "Until we bridge that gap, HealthGrades urges patients to research the patient safety ratings of hospitals in their community and know what steps they can take to protect themselves from error before being admitted."

Besides endangering patients, such preventable medical errors also pose a threat to a hospital's bottom line. The 13 patient safety incidents studied were associated with $7.3 billion of excess cost, which equates to an additional $181.17 per Medicare patient hospitalization.

The Patient Safety in American Hospitals study also named top 10 U.S. cities with the safest hospitals: Minneapolis-St. Paul; Wichita, Kan.; Cleveland; Wilkes-Barre, Penn.; Toledo, Ohio; Boston; Greenville, S.C.; Honolulu; Charlotte, N.C.; and Oklahoma City, all had the fewest reports of patient safety incidents at hospitals.

For more:
- check out the full study (.pdf)
- here's the HealthGrades press release