Patients in worst hospitals 3 times more likely to die, study concludes

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A "substantial opportunity for outcomes improvement in the U.S. healthcare system" exists, researchers concluded after finding mortality and patient safety differed greatly between top- and bottom-decile hospitals, as well as geographically.

A study published Wednesday in PLOS One examined information from 16 independent data sources, including 22 million all-payer admissions, to analyze and compare 24 inpatient mortality, safety and prevention outcomes between hospitals. After risk adjustment, researchers found "large variation" in outcomes at the hospital level and between different regions.

"There is considerable variation in outcomes that really matter to patients, from hospital to hospital, as well as region to region," Thomas Lee, MD, CMO of Press Ganey, told The New York Times.

The study found patients at the bottom-decile hospitals were three times more likely to die than patients at the best hospitals, and complications were 13 percent more likely at the worst hospitals when compared to top-decile organizations.

Researchers agreed to not disclose hospitals' names, according to The New York Times.

"These findings suggest that: 1) additional examination of regional and local variation in risk-adjusted outcomes should be a priority; 2) assumptions of uniform hospital quality that underpin rationale for policy choices (such as narrow insurance networks or antitrust enforcement) should be challenged; and 3) there exists substantial opportunity for outcomes improvement in the U.S. healthcare system," the authors concluded.

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