Though most of us would like to have faith in the notion that the quality of care provided in hospitals across the city, state, and country is essentially equal, a recently-published study has revealed that this simply is not the case.
The research, presented in renowned academic journal PLOS One indicates that there are often startling differences in patient outcomes, both by facility and by geographic region.
In the first broad-based attempt to determine how different facilities stack up against one another in treating a range of maladies, researchers discovered that those taken to the lowest-quality hospitals in the U.S. faced a three-fold increase in their risk of death as compared to those who received care at one of the nation’s best-performing hospitals. This is a reality of which researchers and patient advocates everywhere believe consumers have a right to be aware.
Key Details of Study
Project researchers reviewed roughly 22 million individual hospital admission events, taking data from private insurers as well as information available via the Medicare program, assessing them on a series of metrics related to overall healthcare outcomes.
Once necessary adjustments and accommodations were made for initial patient condition and key demographic factors, it was found that there was substantial variation among hospital facilities in terms of ultimate patient outcomes.
This was true not just with regard to treating facilities themselves, but also in terms of the distinct conditions being treated. For instance, a hospital with a high success rate for diabetic patients may have performed much more poorly when presented with individuals in need of cardiac care.
Possible Explanations for Divergent Outcomes
Lead author of the PLOS One-published study, Dr. Barry Rosenberg, stated that while most Americans tend to assume that care is essentially uniform across the nation’s healthcare facilities, the truth is quite different.
Though a patient’s prior health history as well as their income level are relevant to eventual outcomes, Rosenberg underscored the fact that physician and staff skill levels, hospital culture and treating philosophy also play critical roles in the results routinely attained.
Study Results Highlight Need for Better Patient Access to Information
Clearly, distinctions among hospitals and the patient care outcomes they regularly achieve do exist, but unfortunately, most patients lack a great deal of information about such disparities.
Existing information clearinghouses, such as the Hospital Compare tool made available by Medicare do not provide the scope of data necessary for patients to make truly informed decisions about facilities, according to Dr. Rosenberg.
Increased Availability of Outcome Data Urged
Ultimately, the authors of this study suggest the need for a greater push to make outcome measurement information more broadly available and for hospitals to undertake stronger results transparency measures.
As insurance plans nationwide continue to narrow and alter the care options offered to their policyholders, it is more important than ever for patients to access accurate insights about where their specific condition would likely be most successfully addressed.