Hospitalized Medicare patients experienced 11.3% more adverse patient-safety incidents from 2001 to 2003 than from 2000 to 2002, compared with a 4.9% increase in the number of Medicare hospitalizations over the time periods, according to HealthGrades' second annual report on patient safety. At the same time, the variation among hospitals widened as the best-performing hospitals reduced their numbers of patient-safety incidents while the worst performers saw their incidents rise. The increase in incidents may be explained in part by better detection and reporting of problems, said Samantha Collier, vice president of medical affairs at HealthGrades, Golden, Colo. There was good news, too: The two death indicators tracked -- failure to rescue and death in low-mortality DRGs -- as well as Medicare mortality overall declined, Collier said.
Performance varied little by geography, but there was considerable variance among hospitals, with the top 10% of hospitals significantly outperforming the bottom 10%, HealthGrades said. If hospitals in the bottom 10% improved only their rate for hospital-acquired infections to the level of the top 10%, there would have been 2,734 fewer infection-related deaths and $792 million would have been saved, HealthGrades said. Download a PDF of the report. More coverage on the report is available in this week's Modern Healthcare. -- by Joseph Conn