Hospital Safety Report

When you go to the hospital you expect to get better, but far too often that's not what happens. Every year, inadequate hospital care contributes to the deaths of thousands of patients.

A Consumer Reports investigation finds some hospitals pose more risk than others, although bad things can happen at even the best hospitals.

Patrick Roth suffered several complications following surgery on his back, including a potentially deadly bacterial infection.

Roth says, "I have memory of being in the hospital bed and in such pain that I was screaming not to die."

Many surgical-site infections like the one Patrick Roth had can be prevented, according to Consumer Reports. Yet about one in 20 hospitalized patients develops an infection-and that's only one concern with hospital care.

A 2010 government report finds mistakes and other medical harm contribute to an estimated 15,000 deaths each month. And that's just among Medicare patients.

Dr. John Santa of Consumer Reports says, "And this figure is conservative. Many of the medical mistakes that occur in hospitals are not reported, so we only know about a fraction of the errors that occur."

How safe is your hospital? Consumer Reports analyzed data from more than a thousand hospitals in 44 states and gave each hospital a safety rating in several categories, including:

-Avoiding infections
-Readmissions after discharge
-Clear Communication about drugs and discharge, and
-The overuse of Cat scans

The ratings show that even the best hospitals have room for improvement.

Dr. Santa says, "No hospital got a top score for preventing patients from being readmitted, or for communicating with patients about discharge instructions and new medications."

Patrick Roth expected a better outcome from his hospital stay.

Roth says, "Am I better than I was in the past? No, I'm worse now than I was."

Consumer Reports says hospitals are not required to make all their safety data available and many don't, so at this point its ratings cover only about one-fifth of American hospitals.

The advocacy arm of Consumer Reports has called for a nationwide system to track and report medical errors to the public.

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