Teaching hospitals blast their poor patient safety scores

Some of the leading teaching hospitals are taking issue with public Medicare data that points to such institutions, including Cleveland Clinic, Geisinger Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital, as poor patient safety performers, Kaiser Health News and The Boston Globe reported.

Major teaching hospitals are 10 times more likely to have serious complications, according to the KHN analysis. Thirty-one percent of major teaching hospitals have serious complications that are worse than the national average, while only 4 percent of non-teaching hospitals do, according to Hospital Compare and the Association of American Medical Colleges.

However, some institutions disagree with Medicare's safety rankings, arguing the measurements are skewed.

Shannon Phillips, a quality and patient safety officer at The Cleveland Clinic, said its high rates of accidental tears and lacerations and serious blood clots come from thorough documentation rather than poor care. "People are careful at documenting, almost to a fault, things that are incidental to the case," Phillips said.

This isn't the first time teaching hospitals have ended up at the bottom of the patient safety performance list. Consumer Reports last summer revealed that renowned teaching hospitals did not perform well in preventing bloodstream infections with high rates of such infections.

Dr. Ira Nash, chief medical officer at Mount Sinai, pointed out in the KHN and Globe article that academic medical hospitals perform more of the procedures that can result in the complications.

Even more, experts warn that the data shouldn't be used to compare hospitals.

The patient safety indicators "were supposed to be hypothesis generating," said Gregg Meyer, head of patient safety at Massachusetts General Hospital and one of the original people who helped create the formulas a decade ago. "It is to my horror that they are used to create conclusions. Using this as a mechanism to report something conclusive about safety is what we would term politely an off-label use."

In 2013, Medicare will add additional patient safety measures tied to reimbursement, Kaiser Health News and the Bangor Daily News reported.

For more information:
- read the KHN/Boston Globe article
- read the KHN/Bangor Daily News article

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