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Consumer Reports rates hospitals for safety

Scores show even best have room for improvement

When you go to the hospital, you expect to get better, but far too often that's not what happens. Every year inadequate hospital care contributes to the deaths of thousands of patients.

A Consumer Reports investigation found some hospitals pose more risk than others, although bad things can happen at even the best hospitals.

Patrick Roth suffered several complications after back surgery, including a potentially deadly bacterial infection.

"I have memory of being in the hospital bed and in such pain that I was screaming not to die," the Massachusetts man said.

Many surgical-site infections like the one Roth had can be prevented, according to Consumer Reports.  Yet, about one in 20 hospitalized patients develops an infection. And, that's only one concern with hospital care.

A 2010 government report found mistakes and other medical harm contribute to an estimated 15,000 deaths each month. That's just among Medicare patients.

"And this figure is conservative," said Dr. John Santa with Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center. "Many of the medical mistakes that occur in hospitals are not reported, so we only know about a fraction of the errors that occur."

How safe is your hospital?

Consumer Reports analyzed data from more than 1,000 hospitals in 44 states and gave each hospital a safety rating in several categories including avoiding infection, readmissions after discharge, clear communication about drugs and discharge and the overuse of CT scans.

The ratings show even the best hospitals have room for improvement.

"No hospital got a top score for preventing patients from being readmitted, or for communicating with patients about discharge instructions and new medications," Santos said.

The highest score any hospital received was 72 out of a possible 100 , while the lowest was 16.

Locally, Methodist Hospital scored a 55, and Methodist Stone Oak scored a 58, both better than most.  The lowest rated area for both was in communicating with patients.

Consumer Reports did not rate any other area hospital.  Hospitals are not required to make all of their safety data available and the majority do not.

Consumer Reports is calling for a nationwide system to track and report medical errors to the public.


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