Can You Trust Hospital Safety Ratings?

reports.jpgHospital ratings are supposedly designed to reflect patient safety. But in reality they may be counterproductive in reducing the number of patients harmed by medical errors.

Hospital safety rating systems have proliferated across the country. On its face, this may seem to be viable protection from questionable healthcare providers. However, there are no set standards when developing these ratings that evaluate hospital patient care and safety. And this may lead to patients and their families, through no fault of their own, making decisions that have catastrophic outcomes.

A study published by Health Affairs drives home this point.

Researchers from four leading U.S. educational institutions – Harvard, Johns Hopkins, University of California, and Vanderbilt – examined four popular systems used to rate patient safety at hospitals across the country. They found two major concerns:

• Little consistency in the hospital safety measurement standards used by the four rating systems

• Little overlap in the listing of top-rated hospitals for patient safety between the four systems

Hospitals rated highly in one system may be low-rated in another. With conflicting measurement processes, a patient may decide to go to a particular hospital based on one ranking, when in reality that particular healthcare center may have significant patient safety issues.

Another concern with hospital rating systems is a lack of transparency. The standards used to rate levels of hospital negligence are not always clear to the public, providing less credibility or meaning for the rankings. Some critics point out potential financial conflicts of interest exist as well. The organizations providing the ratings systems may be trying to sell something to the very hospitals they rank.

When physicians or hospital staff make catastrophic medical errors, patients can suffer life-altering injuries or even die. Preventable medical mistakes aren’t always known to the public and therefore may be repeated. If you or a loved one is a victim of a serious medical mistake, an attorney who handles medical malpractice cases can pursue just compensation from those responsible.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertising.