Consumer Reports has conducted a survery of hospitals in the United States for the first time. The analysis looks at patient safety through the following metrics: infections, readmissions, overuse of scanning, communication about new medications and discharge, complications, and mortality.
Here's a sad quotation that gets buried at the bottom of most of the articles on this subject:
Peter Pronovost, M.D., senior vice president for patient safety at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, told Consumer Reports: "Medical harm is probably one of the three leading causes of death in the U.S., but the government doesn't adequately track it as it does deaths from automobiles, plane crashes, and cancer. It's appalling."
In a frightening tabulation of data, more than half of the hospitals evaluated by Consumer Reports received a score below 50 on a scale of 1-100. The highest score in the country went to Billings Clinic in Billings, Montanta. The nation's lowest patient safety score went to Sacred Heart Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. For us Michiganders, take heart that Northern Michigan Regional Hospital in Petoskey, Michigan was ranked top 10 nationally.
John Santa, M.D., M.P.H. directed the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center in its evaluation. His comments reflected a sobering tone: "The safety scores provide a window into our nation's hospitals, exposing worrisome risks that are mostly preventable."
Infections: Consumer Reports was interested in surgical site infections as well as bloodstream infections caused by central-line catheters in ICU. 202 hospitals reported infection rates higher than the national benchmark.
Over-scanning: A single CT scan has the same radiation exposure as 100 to 500 chest x-rays. It is estimated that these levels of exposure contribute to an estimated 29,000 future cancers per year. Consumer Reports found that at least one doctor thought less than 1 percent of chest patients should receive two versions of CT scans (with and without contrast to check for abnormalities). They are more readily needed for abdominal CT scans to detect abnormalities in various organs. Only 28% of hospitals kept double CT scans under 5% for both the abdomen and the chest. That's a lot of potential cancer not being avoided.