Quality Gap Widens Between America's Best, Worst Hospitals

Patients at higher death risk in poorest-performing centers, study finds

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MONDAY, Oct. 17, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Patients in the highest-rated, five-star hospitals in the United States are at a 65 percent lower chance of dying than patients in the lowest-rated, one-star hospitals, according to a study released Monday by HealthGrades, a health-care ratings company.

If all hospitals included in the study performed at the five-star level, the lives of more than 273,000 Medicare patients could have potentially been saved from 2002 to 2004, the study said. Fifty percent of these potentially preventable deaths were associated with four diagnoses: heart failure, community acquired pneumonia, sepsis and respiratory failure.

The eighth annual HealthGrades Hospital Quality in America Study analyzed 37 million Medicare hospitalization records from the years 2002 through 2004, rating the quality of care at more than 5,000 hospitals. The hospitals were rated based on 28 procedures and diagnoses.

The study found that the "quality chasm" in hospital care is growing. While overall death rates at the hospitals improved 12 percent, the best-performing hospitals lowered their death rates 45 percent faster than the lowest-ranked hospitals over the study period.

Better outcomes were associated with higher hospital volumes and higher numbers of intensivists (doctors who specialize in critically ill patients) in intensive care units.

"There is real reason to celebrate in this year's study of quality at America's hospitals," study author Dr. Samantha Collier, vice president of medical affairs at HealthGrades, said in a prepared statement.

"Overall, mortality rates are declining at our nation's hospitals," she said. "However, there's still a lot of work to be done because our findings support that we're not making much headway in closing the 'quality chasm' between the best and worst hospitals," she said.

More information

Here's where you can find the HealthGrades hospital ratings.

SOURCE: HealthGrades, news release, Oct. 17, 2005

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