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Consumer Reports Rates Hospitals for Surgical Safety

Ratings look at how patients fared after surgery at nearly 2,500 hospitals.

Published: August 1, 2013

The newly developed Consumer Reports hospital ratings are about to hit the stands (and the Internet), and the big news is that reputation doesn't appear to strongly correlate with performance, at least based on the admittedly incomplete data the magazine used to complete its assessments.

Consumer Reports used newly available federal government data to look at how patients fared after surgery at nearly 2,500 hospitals in 50 states. The hospital ratings are based on data on infections, readmissions, complications, other adverse events and more.

The report found some of the big-name hospitals did not always do well in preventing infections and other measures of quality care. Among those given the magazine's poorest rating are Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and Johns Hopkins-affiliated Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C. Johns Hopkins itself, meanwhile, was rated as only average.

Among those receiving the magazine's highest ratings are the somewhat less renowned Greater Baltimore Medical Center, the (Lincoln) Nebraska Heart Hospital and Texas's Abilene Regional Medical Center.

The ratings are based on recently released Medicare data on the percentage of surgery patients who either died in the hospital or who stayed longer than expected, based on national averages for 5 designated procedures: back surgery, hip and knee replacement, angioplasty and carotid artery surgery.

Critics say the ratings can give a distorted view because hospitals don't publicly release such information and billing data from Medicare can be misleading.

"It is, unfortunately, the best we can do using billing data," Doris Peter, manager of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center, told NBC News.

Many hospitals, including some large and famous ones, aren't included in the ratings, because the magazine could only include hospitals that reported data in a certain way. Consumer Reports will add the findings to its subscription-only website.

Jim Burger


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