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Government Best Source for U.S. Hospital Data, Study Finds

Magazines that rank facilities don't take all measurements into account

TUESDAY, Sept. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Many hospitals don't make it onto the U.S. News & World Report list of best hospitals for heart disease but still perform well in some measurements regarding heart failure, researchers say.

"If you really want to know how a hospital compares in the areas of heart failure mortality and readmission, you should look directly at government statistics for those measures and not assume that only the hospitals on the list are the best in the care of heart failure patients," senior study author Dr. Harlan M. Krumholz, a professor of medicine and outcomes research at Yale University School of Medicine, said in a news release from the American Heart Association.

Krumholz and colleagues looked at the magazine's 50 top hospitals for heart disease and compared them with 4,700 other U.S. hospitals using federal data.

Patients at ranked hospitals were slightly more likely to survive for 30 days after heart failure. But the death rates at these hospitals varied widely, from 7.9 percent to 12.4 percent, the study found.

"With this list, you're identifying a group that on average does better, but some that are not better than average," Krumholz said.

The ranked hospitals were not better overall by another measure: They scored about the same as non-ranked hospitals when it came to the percentage of patients who were readmitted within 30 days, the researchers found.

"The ways in which these hospitals are excelling in mortality do not seem to be transferring to excellence in transitioning people from being in the hospital to staying out of the hospital," Krumholz added.

The study appears online Sept. 1 in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

More information

For more information on comparing U.S. hospitals, visit the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Sept. 1, 2009

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