KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Study Finds Regional Hospitals Often Are Better At Preventing Medical Errors Than Academic Centers

Some regional hospitals perform better than academic medical centers at preventing complications and infections that can lead to hospital deaths, Forbes reports. The article looks at the results of an annual study by HealthGrades, a hospital rating company, of Medicare data which found 269 hospitals around the country "with unusually low mortality and complications rates for 26 different procedures and diagnoses." A number of well-known, academic centers were not on the list, but regional medical centers were there. Rick May, vice president of clinical consulting for HealthGrades, "says that prestigious academic centers tend to build a reputation on cutting-edge research and excelling at the unusual, like solving rare cases and treating exotic diseases. They may not always excel at less glamorous basic procedures and treatments, he argues." Preventable complications or hospital-acquired infections kill 100,000 people annually. The Forbes article does not mention that patient population at academic centers is often different than at regional hospitals (Ruiz, 1/26).

Meanwhile, two Harvard medical students write about their own training to prevent medical errors in an essay in The New York Times. "As fresh observers of hospital dynamics across specialties, medical students are in an ideal position to effect change by speaking up." Still, they write that many students worry about the hierarchal nature of medicine and how their professors perceive them. "These factors suggest a pressing need for a cultural shift, one that dissolves the secrecy surrounding medical errors and allows trainees and seasoned doctors to speak openly about their mistakes and those their colleagues have made" (Blumenthal and Ganguli, 1/25).

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