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U.S. Hospital Mortality Rates Improve, But Quality Varies

Patients have a 69 percent lower chance of dying at best hospitals in United States

MONDAY, Oct. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Although mortality rates at U.S. hospitals are generally improving, the quality varies widely, with a typical Medicare patient having a 69 percent lower chance of dying in the best hospitals compared with the worst hospitals, according to a report published Oct. 16 by HealthGrades, an independent health care rating group.

The Ninth Annual HealthGrades Hospital Quality in America Study included data from 40.6 million Medicare discharges between 2003 and 2005 to assign over 5,000 non-federal hospitals a quality rating of 1-star (poor), 3-star (average), or 5-star (excellent). Quality was judged for 28 diagnoses and procedures.

The data showed that risk-adjusted mortality rates improved by almost 8 percent on average, although this varied widely depending on procedure and diagnosis. A typical patient would have a 49 percent lower chance of dying in a 5-star hospital compared to the U.S. hospital average, a 7 percent increase over the previous year's study, but a 69 percent lower chance of dying compared with a 1-star hospital.

Using data on 18 procedures and diagnoses, the study suggests that 302,403 lives could have been saved if all hospitals performed at the level of a 5-star hospital, with half of these potentially preventable deaths due to just four diagnoses: heart failure, pneumonia, sepsis and respiratory failure.

The study author was Samantha Collier, M.D., vice president of medical affairs at HealthGrades.

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