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1 out of 6 patients visit low-ranked hospitals, putting lives at risk, Healthgrades says

Consumers should avoid one-star rated hospitals as the risk of complications or death is significantly higher, the ratings group said.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

One out of every six patients over the past two years received care in a hospital rated low for performance, or one-star, according to a new Healthgrades report that shows hospital quality varying across the country, regionally and within local markets.

On the other hand, From 2012 through 2014, patients treated at hospitals receiving five stars from Healthgrades had, on average, a 71 percent lower risk of dying and a 65 percent lower risk of experiencing a complication during their hospital stay than if they were treated at a hospital receiving a one-star rating, the report stated.

Healthgrades did its ratings based on a review of 45 million Medicare patient records for close to 4,500 short-term, acute care hospitals nationwide, identifying how they performed in 33 conditions or procedures using measures of mortality and complications rates.

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[Also: 494 hospitals earn Healthgrades 2015 Patient Safety Excellence Awards (full list)]

In metropolitan areas, where it is generally assumed that increased choices provide more opportunity for better healthcare, this is not always the case, according to the study.

Hospitals minutes away from each other can have significant differences in mortality and complication rates for the same condition or procedure, the report found.

Also, a hospital may provide excellent care for a particular procedure or condition and give worse than-expected quality care in another.

In the Chicago region for example, of 46 hospitals that perform coronary artery bypass graft surgery, only two had a five-star rating for the procedure.

[Also: 1-star hospital number doubles in latest CMS rankings, 5-stars slide; See the data]

When Healthgrades evaluated hospitals in the Chicago area for heart attack, 14 received five-star ratings, meaning they were statistically outperforming the risk-adjusted mortality expectations for the hospital's patient population.

However, when those same 14 hospitals were evaluated for total knee replacement, only three performed statistically significantly better than expected.

In fact, eight of the hospitals rated five stars for heart attack performed at a one-star rating for total knee replacement, the report found.

In Houston, of 38 hospitals that treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, only one had a five-star rating for this condition.

In Philadelphia, of 34 hospitals that treat heart attack, only four had a five-star rating.

In the greater New York area, including northern New Jersey, of 102 hospitals that perform colorectal surgeries, only two had a 5-star rating.

Hospitals rated at least three stars, which means they are performing as expected, are good choices, according to Healthgrades.

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Consumers should avoid one-star rated hospitals as the risk of complications or death is significantly higher, it said.

When presented with information on physician experience, patient satisfaction and hospital outcomes, 85 percent of patients would select a different physician than they did before doing their homework, according to Healthgrades.

In a 2015 survey of U.S. employers, 48 percent said they would place more emphasis on educating their employees about how to select providers based on cost and quality information.

"Because narrow networks are limiting many patients' access to certain physicians and hospitals, it is more important than ever that consumers recognize the symbiotic relationship between doctor and hospital, and do their research to make what may be a lifesaving decision about the care they receive," said Evan Marks, chief strategy officer at Healthgrades.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse