Ratings for safety
Yesterday, Consumer Reports published its annual hospital ratings, and this year it focuses on hospital safety. Why? Because hospitals can be hazardous to your health.
Infections, surgical mistakes, and other medical harm contribute to the deaths of 180,000 hospital patients a year, according to projections based on a 2010 report from the Department of Health and Human Services. Another 1.4 million are seriously hurt by their hospital care. And those figures apply only to Medicare patients. What happens to other people is less clear because most hospital errors go unreported and hospitals report on only a fraction of things that can go wrong.
“There is an epidemic of health-care harm,” says Rosemary Gibson, a patient-safety advocate and author. More than 2.25 million Americans will probably die from medical harm in this decade, she says. “That’s like wiping out the entire populations of North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Vermont. It’s a man-made disaster.”
And my friends and family (at least those not in health care) wonder why I warn them to stay out of the hospital if at all possible!
Related post: Patient safety: “Unaccountable”
Consumer Reports based each hospital’s safety score on five categories:
- Avoiding infections
- Avoiding unnecessary readmissions
- Effective communication for medications and discharge instructions
- Appropriate use of CT scans
- Avoiding mortality, i.e. death
But they acknowledge:
. . . our Ratings include only 18 percent of U.S. hospitals because data on patient harm still isn’t reported fully or consistently nationwide.
How to choose a hospital
My family is one of many that must find a new doctor and hospital because our new insurance has a very narrow provider network.
I posted about this last October when I was shopping around for a new insurance plan.
Although you must be a subscriber to access Consumer Reports’ full ratings, they provide an excellent page on how to choose a hospital.
Some people might have very limited choices, especially those living in rural areas, and Consumer Reports offers some advice for those who are considering going outside of their insurance networks. But be very careful before making that decision!
Luckily, even if your local, in-network hospital does not rank well, Consumer Reports is nothing if not thorough, and they provide another excellent page about how to stay safe in the hospital.
Overall, this latest report from Consumer Reports is packed full of useful information, and I highly recommend picking up the issue or reading what is available online, especially if you anticipate having surgery or other hospitalization in the near future.
As they point out, patient safety (or lack of) is a huge problem in our health care system, and your best protection is to be as informed as possible.