A typical patient may be 65% less likely to die at a hospital with high quality ratings than at a hospital with low quality ratings.[@@]

Researchers at HealthGrades Inc., Golden, Colo., have come to that conclusion in a study based on an analysis of 37 million Medicare hospitalization records gathered from 2002 to 2004.

The researchers looked at mortality statistics for 18 procedures and diagnoses at each hospital, and they gave each hospital a grade of 1 star for below average outcomes, 3 stars for average outcomes and 5 stars for excellent outcomes.

The overall risk-adjusted U.S. hospital mortality rate improved an average of 9.7% at 1-star hospitals between 2002 and 2004, 12% at 3-star hospitals and 14% at 5-star hospitals, the researchers report.

Patients who needed one of the procedures included, repair of an aneurysm in the aorta, or a weakness in the wall of a major blood vessel going from the heart, had a 2.4% chance of dying if they went to a 5-star hospital and an 8% chance of dying if they went to a 1-star hospital.

Patients who went into the hospital with heart failure had a mortality rate of 3.3% at 5-star hospitals and a 6.9% mortality rate at 1-star hospitals.

“If all hospitals performed at the level of a 5-star rated hospital across the 18 procedures and diagnoses studied, 273,137 Medicare lives could have potentially been saved from 2002-2004,” the HealthGrades researchers write in their report.

Half of the unnecessary deaths resulted from weaknesses in quality of care for heart failure, community-acquired pneumonia, sepsis and respiratory failure, the researchers write.