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C.U.: Famed hospitals don’t fare that well in surgical outcomes

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Consumers Union (C.U.)  has released figures that suggest that big, famous and expensive hospitals are not necessarily the best for  many surgical-patient outcomes.

The nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine released ratings of 2,463 U.S. hospitals in all 50 states  to rank the quality of surgical care using two measures: the percentage of Medicare patients who died in the hospital during or after their surgery, and the percentage who stayed in the hospital longer than expected based on  the usual standards of care for their conditions. Both are indicators of complications and overall quality of care, said John Santa, M.D., medical director of Consumer Reports Health.

Many nationally renowned hospitals earned only mediocre ratings. Consider that The Cleveland Clinic, some Mayo Clinic hospitals in Minnesota, and Johns Hopkins Hospital, in Baltimore, for instance, rated no better than midway between “better” and “worse” on the CU scale, worse than many small hospitals.

The ratings don’t explicitly incorporate such complications  as infections, heart attacks, strokes or other  post-surgical problems. However, Dr. Santa told Reuters that the length-of-stay data captures those problems.

Many teaching hospitals usually found at the top of rankings like those of U.S. News & World Report, fell in the middle.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this sort of surprise,”  Marty Makary, M.D., a surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital and author of the 2012 book, Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won’t Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Health Care.

“For a complex procedure you’re probably better off at a well-known academic hospital, but for many common operations less-known, smaller hospitals have mastered the procedures and may do even better” with post-surgical care.

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