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Midwest States Have Highest Performing Hospitals

Oct 15, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

A new study about hospital performance revealed that if all hospitals performed as well as the best performing facilities, that 237,420 U.S. Medicare deaths could have been prevented in the years between 2005 and 2007.

The rankings, which were conducted by HealthGrades, an independent healthcare ratings company, found that the best performing facilities are located in the Midwest.  The new study also found that any given patient experiences a 70 percent lower chance of dying at one of the top-ranked facilities in comparison to those appearing in the lowest-ranking segments.  The rankings looked at 17 procedures and conditions that prompted hospital visits.  Also, the study found that over half of all Medicare patient deaths reviewed were linked to four conditions:  Sepsis, with is a systemic response to infection; pneumonia; heart failure; and respiratory failure.  HealthGrades announced it is releasing its 11th annual hospital quality survey today.

This is not the first time researchers have reviewed the ways in which a hospital can kill a patient with blame being focused on everything from exhausted doctors and staff to antibiotic-resistant microbes.  The study did release some good news and reported that the nation’s in-hospital risk-adjusted mortality rate improved and is at 14.2 percent on average from 2005 to 2007.  Also, the nation's best-performing hospitals saw a reduction in their death rates at a much faster rate than poorly performing hospitals.

Some demographics emerged out of the study.  For instance, the region with the lowest overall risk-adjusted mortality rates was the East North Central region, which is comprised of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.  The East South Central region—comprised of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee—saw the highest mortality, or death, rates.

A separate report released earlier this month by a different group, noted that the South is the worst place to live if seriously ill.   That study and report focused on palliative care, which is an emerging specialty focusing on patients' quality-of-life rather than “elusive cures” for diseases.  The best palliative care is offered in Vermont, Montana, and New Hampshire.

Meanwhile, in August we reported that hospitals in 23 states would no longer bill patients for very serious medical mistakes such as operating on the wrong body part or wrong person, or giving a patient the wrong blood.  The list of such medical errors has doubled since February, in part over an MSNBC.com analysis that revealed that hospital associations in 11 states urged their members to waive payment for errors called “never events,” so named because they should never happen at all.  It remains unclear how many private patients and insurers are being billed for medical mistakes; however, a July study conducted by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality estimated that preventable errors occurring during or after surgery may cost employers nearly $1.5 billion annually.  Effective October 1, Medicare is no longer reimbursing hospitals for the extra costs of treating certain injuries, infections, and complications occurring post-admission.  Non-payment policies are in place in Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania; Cigna, Aetna, and Blue Cross Blue Shield will no longer pay for serious, preventable mistakes.


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