Death rates are significantly higher at hospitals that perform fewer of certain complex procedures and have lower numbers of backup staff for doctors, according to a study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Examining data from 2000 on 10 procedures using the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, AHRQ researchers found more than 75% of hospitals would be considered low-volume for seven of the procedures examined, including coronary artery bypass graft or esophageal cancer surgery.
Also, the low-volume hospitals tended to have lower numbers of residents and RNs, write the researchers, Anne Elixhauser, Claudia Steiner, M.D., and Irene Fraser.
Two exceptions were heart transplants and pediatric heart surgery, where death rates were the same at low-volume hospitals and the low-volume hospitals had RN and resident staffing equal to or higher than high-volume hospitals.
Researchers also found that low-volume hospitals tended to be nonteaching or rural institutions that had for-profit ownership or were located in southern parts of the United States.