STUDY: Hospital Safety Varies Between States

Americans living in Arizona, California, Illinois, and Ohio are in luck. USA Today highlights a new Healthgrades study which finds that patients in these four states enjoy access to the safest hospitals in America — a designation that translates to a 55 percent lower risk of dying while receiving treatment.

The Healthgrades study assesses how well hospitals treated patients across a multitude of medical conditions and procedures from 2005 through 2011, including coronary artery bypass graft, heart attack, pneumonia, and sepsis — altogether, these four areas of medical care account for 54 percent of hospital-related deaths in America. The findings are meant to provide consumers with as much information as possible to help them make their medical decisions, as well as encourage lower-performing hospitals to work on improving their care:

“People need to know how to make informed decisions,” says Roger Holstein, Healthgrades CEO.

“This is the first time we’ve been able to show linkage between a doctor and hospital. It’s particularly important if you’re going to have a surgery. A person can make the best choice by discussing options with his doctor.”

Hospitals in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Nevada, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Washington, D.C., got the lowest grades, although not all the hospitals in those states performed below average. Healthgrades also grades each hospital; the report says there can be large variances locally.

The differences between states are “substantial,” says Evan Marks, a lead author. “For instance, in Alabama you have a 42% higher risk of dying from a heart attack in a hospital than in Arizona.”

The study is based on official data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on 4,500 hospitals across the nation and their treatment records across nearly 30 of the most common medical ailments. The widespread disparities found from state to state are the result of numerous confounding factors, including the historical tendency for doctors to be concentrated near their medical schools and regional income inequality.