Hospitals are meant to be a place where we can trust our sick and wounded to heal in a safe environment. This may be the ideal representation of a hospital, but new information suggests the picture-perfect image is far from reality. A recent report that measured hospital safety and the likelihood of a patient to die from avoidable complications had some shocking results. It showed that many of our nationally-known and trusted facilities may actually be more dangerous than their lesser-known counterparts.
On Thursday, Consumer Reports magazine released their safety ratings of 2,591 American hospitals. The report complied data on readmission, CT scan overuse, hospital-acquired infections, and communication errors — all of which are factors commonly associated with hospital-related deaths. Overall mortality rates were also listed. Based on the report, being admitted to a top-rated hospital as opposed to a low-rated one could mean the difference between life and death for a patient. Mile Memorial Hospital in Maine scored best, while Bolivar Medical Center in Mississippi scored worst.
According to the report, patients hospitalized for pneumonia at low-scoring hospitals were 67 percent more likely to die within a month than those at top-scoring hospitals. Patients that develop serious surgical complications in high-rated hospitals are 87 percent less likely to die, compared to the 52 percent higher fatality risk in some of the more than 132 low-rated U.S. hospitals.
According to a recent article in Reuters, death caused by avoidable hospital complications is on the rise. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine measured the death toll from medical mistakes to be at 98,000. In 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services raised those figure to 180,000 yearly deaths caused by hospital errors. A study conducted last year estimated that in 2014 at least 210,000 people will die from hospital-related complications. This number may rise as high as 440,000. If this highest estimation is reached it will mean that death caused by hospital-related complications will become the third leading cause of death in America, following heart disease and cancer.
Experts suggest that if you find your local hospital on the bad list, it may not necessarily mean the worst — instant death upon admittance — as they acknowledge the great amount of data omitted from the study. This could explain some of the lower scores. Also for hospitals such as Nyack Hospital in New York, even though it was rated 25th worst in the country, according to Medicare, its number of surgical complications and deaths are about the national average.
The results from this report will hopefully help hospitals reevaluate their stance on safety issues and work toward decreasing the number of national deaths caused each year by avoidable hospital-related complications.