Top Hospitals are Improving Faster, Says HealthGrades Study

Heather Comak, February 2, 2010

HealthGrades recently released its eight annual HealthGrades Annual Hospital Quality and Clinical Excellence study and the results show that the top 5% of U.S. hospitals are improving faster than the rest of the field. The same top hospitals have a 29% lower risk-adjusted mortality rate, as well as a 9% lower risk-adjusted complication rate than other U.S. hospitals.

"This independent study of mortality and complication rates identifies an elite group of hospitals that are setting the benchmark for outstanding patient outcomes," said Rick May, MD, vice president of clinical excellence research and consulting for HealthGrades and an author of the study. "And what's extraordinary is that these hospitals are not standing still. In fact, the data show that they are continuing to improve their patient outcomes at a faster rate, reflecting a commitment to quality that stands as a model for all other hospitals."

The information on which these conclusions are based comes from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) data for 26 patient outcomes at all 5,000 non-federal hospitals in the country from 2006 through 2008. Those hospitals that placed in the top 5% of all hospitals for risk-adjusted mortality and complication rates, and who qualified based on quality ratings, patient volumes, and types of care provided, were recognized as one of HealthGrades' Distinguished Hospitals for Clinical Excellence. This year, 269 hospitals received this distinction.

The 2010 study found that patients being cared for at one of the 269 facilities in the top 5% were less likely to have suffered an adverse event. In addition, HealthGrades estimates that more than 150,000 Medicare patients' lives could be saved at hospitals if each hospital were to provide the same quality of care as those hospitals in the top 5%.

Of all of the states, Delaware's hospitals ranked highest, with 50% of the state's hospitals making the list of Distinguished Hospitals for Clinical Excellence. Thirty-six states had at least one hospital representative in the top 5%.

Heather Comak Heather Comak is a Managing Editor at HCPro, Inc., where she is the editor of the monthly publication Briefings on Patient Safety, as well as patient safety-related books and audio conferences. She is also is the Assistant Director of the Association for Healthcare Accreditation Professionals. Contact Heather by e-mailing
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