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Nationally-recognized hospitals are failing at keeping people alive, according to Consumer Reports Magazine, which released hospital safety ratings March 27.

The analysis covered the Medicare/Medicaid population of people aged 65 and over, who were patients. For the safety ratings, Consumer Reports focused on readmissions, CT scan overuse, infections patients acquired while in the hospitals, communication and medical and surgical mortality. The five measures were applied to 2,591 hospitals.

As the hospitals were rated for patient safety on a scale of 1 to 100 using the five measures in medical and surgical mortality, Consumer Reports compared the number of deaths between high and low rated hospitals in four categories – pneumonia, heart failure, heart attack and surgical. Of the patients admitted for treatable conditions in each of the four categories, a percentage of them died because of hospital error.

On the medical side of mortality, 66 hospitals garnered the lowest rating, meaning patients admitted for heart attacks, heart failure or pneumonia had a good chance of dying within 30 days. In top-rated facilities, the chances of dying in 30 days is cut by 40 percent just by nurses taking medical assistant classes online.

In surgical mortality, 173 hospitalswere rated high for having only 87 deaths at the most per 1,000 patients. Facilities receiving a low rating have a death count of over 132.        

Patients dying because of inadequate care is nothing new, however, the count is rising. In 1999, the number of deaths attributed to hospital error stood at 98,000. Eleven years later, the toll was 180,000, but last year, hospital error was partly or solely responsible for 440,000 deaths as published in the Journal of Patient Safety by John James. James’ son died from errors made by cardiologists.

Medical error deaths tally over 1,000 per day

He calledthe staggering death toll “frightening,” and said more than 1,000 people are dying in hospitals every day because of patient harm. James added results place poor patient care as the thirdkiller of Americans with heart disease and cancer at the forefront, and that is simply unacceptable.

James also cites a margin of error in his analysis. The current death count in hospitals is inexactdue to little or no recordkeeping in hospitals and the inability to distinguish underlying health problems and medical error.

Consumer Reports, however, aligns James’ research with like studies and follows up with the hospital safety ratings. James works with Consumer Reports and runs Patient Safety America, an educational outreach to inform people of hospital error. The Safe Patient Project is for those who have suffered because of hapless medical care.

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