Top hospitals perform poorly in surgical error ratings


Several leading New York hospitals have not fared well in ratings released by Consumers Union in July. The nonprofit organization, best known as the publisher of Consumer Reports, ranked 2,463 hospitals in all 50 states based on the quality of the surgical care they provide. They looked at the number of deaths among Medicare patients both during and after surgery and the percentage of patients who remained in hospital for longer than expected.

The ratings were based on the amount of surgical errors in 86 types of procedure that included hip and knee replacements, back surgery and angioplasty. Many well known and highly respected hospitals received only a mediocre rating, and even teaching hospitals that usually appear near the top of national rankings can often be found in the middle of the pack. On the other hand, several hospitals that serve poorer patients in urban areas did well.

The ratings have come under fire from hospitals that received poor grades. The methodology used by Consumers Union was criticized, and their data was accused of being incomplete. However, hospitals rarely release this kind of information to the public, and this lack of transparency was one of the motivations behind the new rankings. The Medical Director of Consumers Union called for hospitals to release information about patient outcomes in the same way that a public company must disclose financial records.

Hospitals and surgeons may go to great lengths to protect their reputations, but those reputations are no guarantee of a positive outcome. Cases involving surgical errors are often complex, and an attorney familiar with medical malpractice may be able to hold surgeons accountable if their errors cause serious injury.

Source: Reuters, “For surgery, big and famous hospitals aren’t always the best“, Sharon Begley, July 31, 2013

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