Choose the right hospital and your survival chances increase

Stayin’ Alive

If you’re going to get sick, get sick in Ohio. Or Florida. Pennsylvania is a good place to get sick too.

Each of these states has seven or more hospitals that are ranked among the 50 best hospitals in the U.S. And if you live in, say, Maryland or Indiana or Georgia, it might be worth the trip to a neighboring state for major medical care.

Why? Because you actually have a much better chance of leaving those hospitals alive.

Star power

“The fact is, patients are twice as likely to die at low- rated hospitals than at highly rated hospitals for the same diagnoses and procedures.”

The quote is from Rick May, M.D., one of the authors of the annual Hospital Quality in America study conducted by HealthGrades. This independent organization has been keeping close tabs on the medical community for more than a decade.

The 12th annual HQA study assessed about 40 million Medicare hospitalization records, tracking mortality trends and complication rates from 2006 through 2008.

In addition to the list of America’s 50 best hospitals, the study results offer patients a way to scrutinize each individual hospital. For instance, a random search reveals that here in Baltimore, MD, there’s only one hospital that gets a five-star (“best”) rating for hip replacement. Seven local hospitals get three stars (an “as expected” rating). Three are rated with one star (“poor”).

If my doctor recommended a hip replacement, I know where I’d want to go!

And it gets even more critical if the procedure is a heart bypass or G.I. surgery. Then the information might save your life.

Complications abounding

The HQA study specifically scrutinized 17 medical procedures, including the three mentioned above, and others, such as stroke, pneumonia, plaque removal from the carotid artery, and obstetrics.

For all of these procedures, chances of complications were found to be 80 percent higher in one-star hospitals compared to five-star hospitals.

Other results:

  • Over the three years of the study, nearly a quarter million lives might have been saved if all hospitals operated at a five-star level
  • Nearly 60 percent of the potentially preventable deaths were in four categories: pneumonia, heart failure, respiratory failure, and sepsis
  • In the past three annual HQA studies, Ohio and Florida have dominated, with the highest percentage of hospitals in the top 15 percent

In addition to detailed hospital ratings, also provides ratings for doctors and nursing homes. They don’t, however, provide shuttle service to Ohio or Florida.

“HealthGrades Study: 52 Percent Lower Chance of Dying at Top-Rated Hospitals” 10/13/09,