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Study: Death Rates Not the Best Measure For Hospital Quality

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The way hospitals have been judged for quality care may be an ineffective method, according to a new study from the Yale School of Medicine.

Overall quality of a hospital has typically been judged by the death rate. But the Yale report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, claims death rates may not be an accurate or fair measure of hospital quality.

The study examined two normally used tactics to determine the hospitals level of quality. The first method takes mortality rates from people who pass away during their first hospital visit, and the next approach gathers death rates of those patients who died within 30 days from their initial check in.

Elizabeth Drye, a research scientist at Yale School of Medicine’s Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, and lead author of the study says “We were concerned that only counting deaths during the initial hospitalization can be misleading, because some hospitals keep their patients for less time than others due to patient transfers to other facilities or because they send patients home more quickly.”

Researchers in 2010, at the University of Birmingham in England, conducted a study that also found death rates weren’t among the best measures to determine hospital quality, because many of the patient deaths are unpreventable. Only one of every 20 hospital deaths are preventable.

Drye believes that there should be a consistent approach in determining the quality of a hospital, and believes it will create a clearer understanding of how good a hospital really is.

“To asses current and future patient management strategies we should assess all patients for a standard time period, such as 30 days,” she said.

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