Study: Rescue rate, not complications, singles out great hospitals

Until recently, much analysis of hospital performance has assumed that complication rates are an important element in analyzing which hospitals performed well and which ones didn't. Now, a new study suggests that this assumption may be flawed.

The study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggests that while complications may occur after one of six major surgeries, the biggest contributing factor to mortality is failure to rescue patients. Researchers drew this conclusion after analyzing data on 84,730 patients undergoing surgery at 186 hospitals.

Study author Dr. John Birkmeyer, who serves as professor of surgery and chairman of research at the University of Michigan Medical School, notes that lower-mortality hospitals simply deal with complications better. Such hospitals put together teams that can rescue patients by recognizing and addressing preliminary signs of serious complications such as deep wound infections, kidney failure and strokes.

Meanwhile, patients at high-mortality hospitals are almost twice as likely to die when they develop serious post-surgical complications, the study concluded.

To learn more about this issue:
- read this UPI piece

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