Need knee replacement surgery or emergency help for a heart attack? The hospital you choose can make a huge difference in whether you have complications or literally make it out alive.
Healthgrades, an independent healthcare rating company, just released a report revealing complications and risk of death for dozens of procedures at thousands of hospitals all over the country. The results show that where you go in Atlanta for various emergency and elective procedures really matters.
For example, the risk of a patient dying increases seventeen times if he or she goes for stroke treatment to a local hospital with a one-star rating versus a hospital that received five stars.
The report analyzes three years of Medicare outcomes data of 40 million patients from 4,500 hospitals nationwide. If hospitals perform as expected compared to that data, they receive three stars. If they do better than expected, they earn five stars. If they're worse, they get only one star.
We asked Healthgrades Director of Quality, Sonja Baro, a couple questions about the eye-opening report.
What is the report all about?
We found in the study again this year, there really is variation in hospital care. You can't assume the hospital down the street is good with the specific procedure you need to have. You need to know before you go. Variation in outcomes also contributes to the cost. Hospitals with a higher mortality rate had on average up to a three-time greater cost. As they are caring for patients, if there are things that happen along the care path that are unexpected complications, they are usually having to take action. Quality not only affects the life of a patient, literally, it also can cost more.
From a patient's perspective, there is data out there. If I choose a certain physician and they're affiliated with a certain hospital and they don’t have good mortality or complication rates, I may want to choose a different doctor.
What are you rating?
What we're rating is solely clinical outcomes: mortality rates and complication rates. The way I explain it to my friends and family is: If I go to that hospital how likely am I to survive the care? If I go for an elective procedure, how likely am I to experience an unexpected complication?
We don’t do an overall grade or rating. Honestly, each hospital has things they do really well and things they need to improve…We think it's important that you consider the procedure you're going in for.
Some highlights from Atlanta hospitals:
Emory University Hospital has five stars for heart failure and stroke. The hospital has one star for pulmonary embolism, hip fracture treatment, and abdominal aortic aneurysm repair.
Saint Joseph's Hospital has five stars in six categories including stroke and heart attack. The hospital has one star in seven categories including heart failure and pacemaker procedures.
Piedmont Hospital has five stars in seven categories including pneumonia and heart attack. The hospital one star in six categories including total knee replacement and hip fracture treatment.
To check on a local hospital's performance for a specific procedure:
Go to healthgrades.com
Enter your city
Click the "Find Hospitals" tab.
Choose a procedure from the "Select a Quality Category" dropdown menu and hit "Go."
Click on a hospital.
Choose "Clinical Quality" under the "Hospital Quality" tab.
Five stars is great. Three stars is average. One star is below average.