Hospital quality of care and outcomes are not all the same

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How do you choose a hospital? And what happens when you have no choice as an ambulance races to get you to the closest facility in an emergency? Hospitals are not all created equal and the quality of care can differ significantly from facility to facility as well as from region to region.

The closest hospital may have just the specialist with the right skill set to save your life. Or it could be one where your odds are much lower. A recent study published in PLOS One found a striking difference in outcomes for patients based on whether they were rushed to one of America’s worst hospitals or one of its best.

While this might not come as a surprise, what is shocking is the degree of variation. Comparatively, the likelihood of death was three times greater and medical complications were 13 times more likely at one of the worst hospitals.

Data from 22 million admissions

The researchers reviewed a large data set that included information from Medicare as well as private insurance companies. Medical outcomes were analyzed and adjusted for factors such as health of a patient, age and income level. While health or the patient and income contributed, factors such a skill of physicians, nurses and a hospital’s decisions about treatment also played significant roles.

One finding was that a hospital could have good results treating heart attacks because it handles a high volume of those cases. But it might fail to properly diagnose or treat other conditions.

In order to obtain all the data, the researchers were required to keep the identities of the hospitals confidential. This raises questions about why there isn’t more transparency around performance.

Some tools exist including Medicare’s Hospital Compare and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons makes information publicly available about heart surgery.

Get as much information before making a decision. But if you have concerns that a medical mistake or missed diagnosis either caused a death or serious complications, discuss these worries with an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

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