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Safety still lags in U.S. hospitals

Our updated Ratings show most hospitals need to improve

Consumer Reports magazine: May 2013

Looking for good news about hospital safety? More hospitals are required to track and report more data, so our updated hospital safety Ratings now include 2,031 hospitals—up from 1,159 institutions in our August 2012 report.

But we still find cause for concern:

  • The lowest-scoring hospital, Clinch Valley Medical Center in Richlands, Va., got only a 14 on our 100-point scale. Beth Stiltner, the hospital’s quality/risk manager, says that the score represents “only a small piece of the entire hospital’s performance” and that in 2012 the hospital reduced its infection rates. We’ll incorporate new data into future updates when they’re released by the government.
  • The average score for all hospitals was 49. “When it comes to health care, average should never be good enough, and this average is clearly not even close,” says John Santa, M.D., director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center.
  • The highest-scoring hospital, Bellin Memorial Hospital in Green Bay, Wis., got just a 74. That shows that even top-scoring hospitals have room for improvement.

In addition, teaching hospitals, which are supposed to prepare future doctors, are lagging. Almost two-thirds of the nation’s 258 teaching hospitals that report enough data for us to calculate a safety score ranked below average. “Those hospitals should set the bar higher,” Santa says. “But that is not happening.”

That trend is especially acute in and around New York City: 27 of the 28 teaching hospitals in the region scored below the national average. The exception: Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y. Overall, 58 of the area’s 70 hospitals with a safety score ranked below average.

Our updated safety score focuses on five key measures: readmissions, complications, communication, the overuse of CT scans, and infections. The data, which come from federal and state governments, cover different time ranges, depending on the specific measure. See a full description of how we rate hospitals.

Our Ratings are an important measure, but they’re not the only source you should consult. They don’t, for example, assess how successful hospitals are at treating medical conditions. So before a planned hospital stay, consult multiple sources, such as Hospital Compare, run by the federal government, and the Leapfrog Group, an independent organization that tracks hospital safety and quality.

Highest-scoring Teaching Hospitals
Hospital Location Safety score

Mayo Clinic Hospital

Phoenix

69

Mayo Clinic Jacksonville

Jacksonville, Fla.

68

Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center

La Crosse, Wis.

66

Bronson Methodist Hospital

Kalamazoo, Mich.

65

Saint Mary’s Hospital

Waterbury, Conn.

65

Mayo Clinic-Saint Marys Hospital

Rochester, Minn.

65

Indiana University Health Ball Memorial Hospital

Muncie, Ind.

64

Avera McKennan Hospital and University Health Center

Sioux Falls, S.D.

63

Baystate Medical Center

Springfield, Mass.

63

University of Utah Health Care - Hospital and Clinics

Salt Lake City

62

Lowest-scoring Teaching Hospitals
Hospital name Location Safety score

University of Connecticut Health Center, John Dempsey Hospital

Farmington, Conn.

17

Kings County Hospital Center

Brooklyn, N.Y.

22

Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center Health Care System

Bronx, N.Y.

25

Grady Memorial Hospital

Atlanta

27

Shands Jacksonville Medical Center

Jacksonville, Fla.

27

Tulane Medical Center

New Orleans

28

Westchester Medical Center

Valhalla, N.Y.

28

Harlem Hospital Center

New York City

28

Jacobi Medical Center

Bronx, N.Y.

29

University Medical Center

Lubbock,Texas

30

Saint Louis University Hospital

St. Louis

30

Click on the map at right to find Ratings of hospitals nationwide. The Ratings include those hospitals for which we have a safety score, as well as some information on performance for more than 4,000 other hospitals.

Editor's Note: A version of this article appeared in the May 2013 issue of Consumer Reports magazine with the headline "U.S. Hospitals Still Not Safe Enough."
   

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