August 10, 2009 / 8:01 AM / in 10 years

Quality focus reduces deaths in US hospitals-report

* Better quality could save 47,000 lives a year

* Quality control could prevent 92,000 complications

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON, Aug 10 (Reuters) - Hospital systems that focus on quality care lower death rates and have healthier patients, according to an analysis released on Monday.

The analysis from Thomson Reuters (TRIL.TO) (TRI.N) looked at 252 U.S. health systems and found the best-performing 20 percent had 25 percent fewer deaths, 19 percent fewer complications, and 13 percent fewer patient mishaps than the 20 percent worst performers, even though their patients were sicker.

The study, released in Modern Healthcare, shows that higher-quality healthcare is possible if hospital systems make it their primary focus, instead of profits, for example, said Jean Chenoweth, Thomson Reuters senior vice president for performance improvement, who led the research.

The analysis can also inform healthcare reform efforts — the signature policy of U.S. President Barack Obama and the focus of considerable negotiations in Congress, Chenoweth said.

“The legislation that is pending will be restructuring the healthcare industry to drive higher value. That will affect insurance companies, health systems and all of us as patients,” Chenoweth said in a telephone interview.

Thomson Reuters, the parent company of Reuters News, also rated the hospital systems across the United States and released a top 100 list as part of its report. It did not look at whether raising quality lowered costs, although many experts say lowering patient complications can save billions.

“The lowest 20 percent of healthcare systems are significantly poorer performing than the top 20 percent on every metric — patient mortality, complications, length of stay,” Chenoweth said.

DRIVING QUALITY

The top 10 include for-profit and not-for-profit health systems, religious and secular organizations, large and small facilities across the country.

“This suggests that every type of health system has the potential to drive higher quality — and health systems could become a powerful force for rapid improvement in hospital performance as the industry is restructured,” Chenoweth said.

Chenoweth’s team used data on 12 million Medicare patients using five measures: mortality, medical complications, patient safety, average length of stay, and whether hospitals followed standards of care published by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

These standards include giving aspirin to heart patients, giving the right antibiotics and a pneumonia vaccine to patients with pneumonia, and giving antibiotics and blood thinners before surgery to prevent infections and blood clots.

Chenoweth’s team calculated that if all Medicare patients received the same level of care as provided by the top 100 hospitals, more than 47,000 lives would be saved each year, 92,000 patient complications would be avoided each year and average patient stay would fall by half a day.

The top 10 hospital systems according to the study are:

* Advocate Health Care of Oak Brook, Illinois

* Catholic Healthcare Partners of Cincinnati, Ohio

* Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati

* HealthEast Care System of Saint Paul, Minnesota

* Henry Ford Health System in Detroit

* Kettering Health Network of Dayton, Ohio

* OhioHealth of Columbus

* Prime Healthcare Services, Inc. of Victorville, California

* Trinity Health of Novi, Michigan

* University Hospitals Health System of Cleveland, Ohio.

Editing by Eric Beech

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