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Choosing the wrong hospital could be lethal, report finds

Hospitals ranking lowest in a grading system have the highest death rate

Photo (c) Birkus-Viktor - Getty Images
Being admitted to a hospital ranking lower for preventing accidents, injuries, errors, and infections could greatly increase your chances of not getting out alive.

That’s a principal takeaway from the Leapfrog Group’s annual Hospital Safety Grades. It found that patients in hospitals receiving a “D” or “F” grade were 92 percent more likely to die from an avoidable cause.

The report also found that patients in hospitals receiving a “C” grade were 88 percent more likely to have a patient die an avoidable death. The risk drops to 36 percent for institutions receiving a “B” grade.

While hospitals awarded an “A” grade are not perfectly safe, the researchers found they are getting safer with each passing year. Their report concludes that if every hospital protected against avoidable death at the same rate as “A” hospitals, it would save 50,000 lives annually.

160,000 avoidable deaths

The report found an estimated 160,000 lives were lost in the U.S. in 2017 from avoidable medical errors that are accounted for in the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade, a big improvement from 2016, when researchers estimated there were 205,000 avoidable deaths.

"The good news is that tens of thousands of lives have been saved because of progress on patient safety,” said Leah Binder, president and CEO of the Leapfrog Group. “The bad news is that there's still a lot of needless death and harm in American hospitals."  

She points to the report’s underlying conclusion, that U.S. hospitals don't all have the same track record when it comes to keeping patients alive.

“So it really matters which hospital people choose, which is the purpose of our Hospital Safety Grade," Binder said.

Very few received a failing grade

The latest study graded more than 2,600 U.S. hospitals, with nearly a third earning an “A” grade. Fortunately, only 1 percent got a failing grade, while 6 percent were rated “D,” or poor. The states with the highest percentage of A-rated hospitals are Oregon with 58 percent, Virginia with 53 percent, Maine with 50 percent, and Massachusetts and Utah with 48 percent.

There were no A-rated hospitals in Wyoming, Arkansas, Washington, DC, Delaware, or North Dakota.

The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades are an independent, nonprofit grading system administered on behalf of employers and other purchasers of healthcare services. They rate institutions on their ability to avoid errors, accidents, injuries and infections and receive guidance from the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality.

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