Ranking by death rates alone doesn't measure severity of cases, researchers say
FRIDAY, Sept. 11 (HealthDay News) -- A new study questions the value of hospital report cards and national rankings when it comes to neurology and neurosurgery.
Researchers with Loyola University Health System in Chicago say the mortality index, a statistic to gauge the number of deaths a facility has in a given area of medical care, may be inflated -- indicating a higher-than-normal death rate -- at hospitals that specialize in severe traumas, have busy emergency departments or have high numbers of patients on government-subsidized Medicaid.
"A hospital with a lower mortality index may not be a better hospital for patient care, but rather a place where the patient mix has been refined or limited," study senior author Dr. Thomas Origitano, chairman of the Loyola medical school's department of neurological surgery, said in a university news release.
The study authors, whose findings are available online in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the Journal of Neurosurgery, say their review of neurosurgical deaths at 103 academic medical centers shows that the mortality index skews against hospitals that do the following:
The researchers also said that using a facility's reputation as a key ranking criteria, which many national evaluation systems do, "is at best subjective" and may mislead patients.
There is no "definitive or reliable source for rating the quality of overall neurosurgical care," the researchers concluded.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more about comparing hospitals.
-- Kevin McKeever
SOURCE: Loyola University Health System, news release, Sept. 8, 2009
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