Is your hospital really as safe as you think?

Our updated hospital safety score can help you find out

Published: March 2014

Miles Memorial Hospital (Lincoln Health)
This tiny hospital, in Damariscotta, Maine, got a 78 in our hospital safety score.

Damariscotta, Maine, population 2,218, and Cleveland, Ohio, may seem like unlikely spots to find find two of our top-rated hospitals. But both are home to hospitals ranking in the top of our updated safety score: Miles Memorial Hospital (now Lincoln Health), with a 78 on our 100-point scale, and Lutheran Hospital, part of the Cleveland Clinic, with a 75.

“We are a very small community, and our patients are our neighbors, friends, and family,”  Cindy Coyne, R.N., director of quality and patient safety at Miles, said. “We work hard to take care of them.”

Though the setting is very different, the sentiment is similar at Lutheran Hospital. “Patient care is what we think about every day,” said Brian Donley, M.D., president of Cleveland Clinic Regional Hospitals. “We empower every person in our system to take the steps necessary to make patient safety a priority.” Other top hospitals are spread across the country, in suburbs, rural areas, and big cities.The message: Success can happen anywhere.

The flip side is that low-performing hospitals are also easy to find. The average score for hospitals is just 51, and 43 hospitals got a score below 30. “It is unacceptable that so many hospitals are doing so poorly,” John Santa, M.D., medical director of Consumer Reports Health, said. “Especially since our Ratings show that some hospitals can do a good job at keeping patients safe.”

Read more about our updated hospital Ratings, including how hospitals across the country fared in preventing deaths and how we rate hospitals.

What's behind our hospital Safety Score

We combined five safety categories into a score between 1 and 100. Data are the most recent available from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Mortality, readmission, and scanning apply to patients 65 or older; communication, to all adults; and infections, to all patients.

Mortality represents the chance a patient who has had a heart attack, heart failure, or pneumonia will die within 30 days of admission, or the chance that a surgical patient with serious complications will die in the hospital.

Readmission represents the chance that a patient is readmitted to a hospital within 30 days of initial discharge.

Scanning reflects the percentage of chest and/or abdominal CT scans that are ordered twice for the same patient, once with contrast and once without.

Infections reflects a hospital’s success in avoiding infections from central-line and urinary catheters in intensive care units, and infections after certain surgeries.

Communication indicates how well staff explain medications and discharge planning to patients.

Read more about how we rate hospitals.

This article also appeared in the May 2014 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.  

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