HealthGrades has released their “Fourth Annual Patient Safety in American Hospitals Study.” HealthGrades researches and reports information on patient safety in hospitals throughout the United States. They use the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s (AHRQ) Patient Safety Indicators to “identify the patient safety incident rates for every non-federal hospital in the country using three years of Medicare data (2003-2005).” HealthGrades created a composite score to rate the hospitals and the hospitals that performed the best and had the least amount of patient safety incidents are included in their “2007 Distinguished Hospitals for Patient Safety.”

In their study, they found (excerpts from the study):

– Approximately 1.16 million total patient safety incidents occurred in over 40 million hospitalizations in the Medicare population.

– More than half (10 of 16) of the patient safety incident (PSI) rates studied worsened from 2003 to 2005. The PSIs with the greatest increases were post-operative sepsis (34.28%), post-operative respiratory failure (18.70%), and selected infections due to medical care (12.32%).

– The PSI’s with the highest incident rates were decubitus ulcer, failure to rescue, and post-operative respiratory failure. These three PSIs accounted for almost 71.7 percent of all patient safety incidents.

– Of the 284,798 deaths that occurred among patients who developed one or more patient safety incidents, 247,662 were potentially preventable.

– If all hospitals performed at the level of Distinguished Hospitals for Patient Safety, approximately 206,286 patient safety incidents and 34,393 Medicare deaths could have been avoided while saving the U.S. approximately $1.74 billion during 200 to 2005.

According to this report, U.S. Hospitals have a long way to go before patient safety can be touted as a strong point. According to HealthGrades’ report, it is the Distinguished Hospitals which are getting better and creating the overall decrease in patient safety incidents. You will find Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Virginia and Winchester Medical Center in Winchester, Virginia on the list of Distinguished Hospitals for Patient Safety. Congratulations to those two hospitals – we hope that more hospitals will follow in your footsteps.

Bo Frith