Study Ranks Best, Worst States for Hospital Care

If you're in need of hospital care, best hope you're not in New England or parts of the Southeast.

That's according to the latest results of an annual study that analyzes patient outcomes at 5,000 hospitals nationwide.

Based on 41 million Medicare hospitalization records filed between 2004 and 2006, researchers compiling the 10th annual HealthGrades Hospital Quality in America Study ranked the best and worst regions and states in the country for hospital care.

They found that patients visiting hospitals received the worst care in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee. Less than 7 percent of the hospitals in these states are considered "top-performing," according to the study.

The best care, meanwhile, was found in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin, the study said.

Click here for the full study, including state-by-state data

The study also noted a wide variation in the quality of care between the highest-performing hospitals and all others. It also found that if all hospitals performed at the level of hospitals rated with five stars, 266,604 Medicare beneficiaries' lives could potentially have been saved over the three-year study period.

Patients, on average, are 71 percent less likely to die while being cared for at the nation’s top-rated hospitals compared to the nation's worst, according to the latest study from HealthGrades, a health care ratings organization.

“While we are pleased to see that the hospital industry’s focus on improving care quality has continued to reduce mortality rates, a significant variation in quality among the nation’s best and poorest-performing hospitals persists,” said Dr. Samantha Collier, HealthGrades’ chief medical officer and one of the authors of the study, in a news release.

“Concentrating on emulating practices from exemplary hospitals can result in improvement. If this focus were targeted to four key quality areas — heart failure, respiratory failure, sepsis, and pneumonia — the nation could achieve up to a 50-percent reduction in potentially preventable deaths," she added.

The Findings

According to the study, mortality rates at America’s hospitals have improved 11.8 percent from 2004 to 2006, with the nation’s top-rated hospitals improving at a faster rate (12.8 percent) than the lowest-rated hospitals (11.4 percent).

Of the 18 procedures and conditions studied, those that saw the most improvement in mortality rates were pancreatitis (19.2 percent), pulmonary embolism (17.4 percent) and diabetic acidosis and coma (16.6 percent).

The smallest improvements were seen in resection/replacement of the abdominal aorta (0.4 percent), coronary interventional procedures such as angioplasties and stents (0.8 percent) and treatment of heart attacks (8.9 percent).

The study also found:

— The East North Central region had the highest percentage of best-performing hospitals — those hospitals that are among the best 15 percent for risk-adjusted mortality — at 26 percent.

— The region with the most overall improvement for all procedures and conditions was the West South Central region (Arkansas, Los Angeles, Oklahoma and Texas), where the risk-adjusted mortality dropped by 13.5 percent.

— The least improvement was seen in the Mountain region (Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming), with a decline of 8.8 percent.