Consumer Reports study shows that some well-known hospitals may not do better or as well as smaller hospitals when it comes to surgery.
For the first time, Consumer Reports ranked U.S. hospitals based on how patients do during and after surgery. The organization looked at 27 categories for scheduled surgeries and individual ratings for five specific procedure types: back surgery, hip replacement, knee replacement, angioplasty (widening narrows or obstructed arteries) and carotid artery surgery.
The data was based on an analysis of billing claims that hospitals submitted to Medicare from 2009 to 2011. The patients were 65 and older, and 2,463 hospitals were included across the country. The rankings were based on mortality rates after surgery and extended periods of hospital stay because of surgical complications.
"Consumers have very little to go on when trying to select a hospital for surgery, not knowing which ones do a good job at keeping surgery patients safe and which ones don't," says Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumers Union's Safe Patient Project. "They might as well just throw a scalpel at a dartboard."
Doris Peter, associate director of Consumer Reports' Health Rating Center, explained to CBSNews.com that they had been working on the project for 18 months. The team had to comb through billing records and identify codes that signified different complications. Part of the problem was that codes vary from hospital to hospital, so the average patient probably couldn't understand them, Peter said.