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New report ranks hospital surgery safety

In this day and age it's easy to quickly check business and restaurant reviews online. Actual consumers in New York can report on the quality of service and product, leaving the rest of us to make our own decisions based on the review. Deciding which hospital to use for a surgical procedure is unequivocally more important than deciding where to eat, but unfortunately there isn't a great way for the general public to review and compare hospital safety.

Consumer Reports (CR) is trying to change this. CR recently analyzed government data to report on how well patients fared post-surgery at different hospital. The report looked at almost 2,500 hospitals across the country. Oddly enough, some of the most famous and well-known hospitals didn't get high ratings, while busier and more urban hospitals did quite well.

CR separated the data into five standard procedures, including back surgery, hip/knee replacement, angioplasty and carotid artery surgery. Post-surgical errors were a major component of the rating system. The system looked at the percentage of surgery patients that stayed longer than the average stay for each particular procedure and the percentage of patients who died during their stay.

Critics of the recent ratings say the data is a flawed source because it is administrative data like billing information. For example, the rate of infection is measure basked on billing information but this rate might only be right 25 percent of the time. Critics say that in order to provide health-care consumers with truly accurate ratings there needs to be a better way to measure performance.

Although it may be far from perfect, CR's report is the first of its kind to provide consumers with some way to choose the best hospital. But even hospitals with the best safety records and care can make mistakes. If a surgical error occurs as the result of a hospital or doctor's failure to abide by the accepted standard of care then an injured patient can bring a lawsuit against the negligent party. A medical malpractice suit allows victims to recover compensation for injury-related expenses, like additional medical bills or lost wages.

Source: NBC News, "'Top' hospitals aren't always tops, new report finds," Maggie Fox, July 31, 2013

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