Many hospitals tended to fare poorly on measures of communication, Consumer Reports said. Nearly 500 facilities received the lowest possible score for communication about medications and discharge planning, the group added.
"That's worrisome because drug errors in hospitals are common and sometimes serious, and poor discharge planning can lead to readmissions," Consumer Reports said in its report.
Even top-rated hospitals showed plenty of room for improvement, Consumer Reports said. For instance, the three highest rated hospitals–the Billings (Mt.) Clinic; Saint Clare's Hospital, Weston, Wis.; and Alton (Ill.) Memorial Hospital – received composite safety scores of 72%, 71% and 71%, respectively.
"The safety scores provide a window into our nation's hospitals, exposing worrisome risks that are mostly preventable,” said Dr. John Santa, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center, in the release. "A consumer who enters a hospital thinking it's a place to get better deserves to know if that is indeed the case.”
Consumer Reports' ratings drew on a patchwork of sources, including the CMS' Hospital Compare, the Leapfrog Group's annual survey and interviews with a range of stakeholders.
Just last month, the Washington-based Leapfrog Group released its own hospital safety report, which assigned an overall letter grade to more than 2,600 hospitals.
In a July 5 statement, the Leapfrog Group thanked Consumer Reports for compiling the ratings, and it urged consumers to use the ratings – along with the Leapfrog Group's hospital grades – to choose sites for care.
"We believe the two ratings complement each other and enrich the quality of information available to people making life and death decisions about their health care," Leah Binder, Leapfrog's president and CEO, said in the statement. "In addition, there are other sources of quality and safety information consumers may consult."