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A new independent study by HealthGrades of patient outcomes at America's hospitals found that patients at 5-star rated hospitals had a 72 percent lower risk of dying when compared with patients at 1-star-rated hospitals - an enormous gap that has held steady over the past years even as overall mortality rates have improved. According to the study, if all hospitals performed at the level of 5-star rated hospitals over the three years studied, 232,442 Medicare lives could potentially have been saved.

Released today, the Thirteenth Annual HealthGrades Hospital Quality in America study analyzed objective mortality and complication rates at all of the nation's 5,000 non-federal hospitals using 40 million hospitalization records obtained from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The study, the largest of its kind, identified national and state-level trends in hospital care quality and established quality ratings for each hospital, across 26 different procedures and diagnoses, which are now available at www.healthgrades.com.

Looking at overall trends, the HealthGrades study found that hospital mortality rates, on average, have declined by 7.98 percent over the three-year period studied, from 2007 to 2009. Of the 17 mortality-based diagnoses and procedures analyzed, only two bucked the overall trend with increasing mortality rates – gastrointestinal surgeries and coronary intervention procedures.

As part of the study, HealthGrades rated individual hospitals with a 1-star, 3-star or 5-star rating in each of 26 procedures and diagnoses, from bypass surgery to total knee replacements. A 1-star rating means that the hospital performed below average, to a statistically significant degree, when compared with the other 5,000 hospitals. A 3-star rating means the hospital's performance was average, and a 5-star rating means the hospital outperformed the national average to a statistically significant degree.

Five-star rated hospitals had significantly lower risk-adjusted mortality across the three years studied. A typical patient would have a 72.47 percent lower risk of dying in a 5-star rated hospital compared to a 1-star rated hospital, and a 53.36 percent lower risk of dying by going to 5-star rated hospital compared to the U.S. hospital average.

HealthGrades is an independent healthcare ratings organization, providing quality ratings, profiles and cost information on the nation's hospitals, physicians, nursing homes and prescription drugs.

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