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Medical malpractice and hospital reputation

A good rating from patients may hide serious flaws in the care provided at a hospital. A recent review of Medicare data has shown that many of the hospitals that received top marks from patients had a higher rate of death among patients suffering heart attacks, heart failure or pneumonia. Victims of medical malpractice may confuse friendly service and a good reputation for competent care. The research certainly indicates that patient-survey data is not necessarily a good way to choose where to have a medical procedure done.

Health care data can be difficult to analyze. Death rates and readmission rates give an objective glimpse into the quality of the care given at a particular hospital. Experts say that this data is a more reliable measure than patient surveys for choosing where to get your medical care. Of course, even the best hospitals are capable of harming a patient through negligence. The people harmed should always protect their rights, regardless of how well-regarded the medical facility.

The Medicare data covered roughly 4,600 hospitals all over the country. It concluded that 323 of those hospitals reported death rates higher than the norm for heart attack, heart failure or pneumonia. Only two hospitals had higher death rates than average for all three. Thirteen of the hospitals performed better than average for all three conditions. This is the first year that this data has been made available to the public. It remains to be seen if there will be any formal action taken with regard to the hospitals that did not perform well.

For years, patients had no way to determine if the hospital they used was performing up to accepted standards. Hopefully, this new data will help all of us identify which hospitals are the most reliable in providing quality care and attention when we need it the most.

Source: USA Today, "Medicare data show gap in hospital performance, perception," Steve Sternberg and Christopher Schnaars, 5 August 2011

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