Consumer Reports’ Rating of Hospital Safety Highlights Serious Problems

Published on Aug 22, 2012 at 12:26 pm in General Blogs.

Consumers Reports (CR), the monthly product rating magazine, released the results of itssurvey on hospital safety in the August 2012 issue. CR’s findings are disturbing:

1. 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, as CR noted, those figures apply only to Medicare patients. What happens to other people is less clear because most hospital errors go unreported and hospitals report only a fraction of things that can go wrong, the venerable consumer rating magazine observed.

2. About one in 20 hospitalized patients will develop an infection – a preventable occurrence — according to CR. Dirty instruments, improperly sterilized catheters or needles and the contaminated hands of doctors, nurses, or other health-care workers are common causes of infection. In one study, 60 percent of hospitals that used an infection-prevention checklist developed by a Maryland doctor eliminated all central–line infections in their intensive-care units for at least a year.

3. Returning to the hospital soon after going home can be a sign that something went wrong. Research suggests that up to three-quarters of read missions may be preventable, CR noted.

Data was taken from government and independent sources to rate 1,159 hospitals in 44 states, about 18% of hospitals nationwide. Consumer Reports rated hospitals on infections, read missions, communication with patients, overuse of imaging tests,complications and mortality. CR said it also interviewed patients, physicians, hospital administrators, and safety experts; reviewed medical literature and looked at hospital inspections and investigations.

Many hospitals, including Johns Hopkins Hospital – which scored less than half the rate of infections of the national benchmark – could not be rated because many Maryland hospitals don’t participate in the standard Medicare payment system that’s also used to collect data for some of the measures in the ratings, according to CR.

Statements from the participants in CR’s survey echo that the nation’s hospitals have serious problems with safety.

“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 told CR. “That’s like wiping out the entire populations of North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Vermont. It’s a man-made disaster.”

“Medical harm is probably one of the three leading causes of death,” Peter Provost, M.D, senior vice president for patient safety and quality at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, told CR.

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