Going to a Hospital Could Be a Crapshoot. Should It?


You may have great faith in your local New Jersey hospital. Perhaps you, a family member or friend was treated there and did well. But if you need treatment for something new, is that hospital the right place for you?

The federal government and health insurance companies have statistics on the nation’s hospitals and how well they treat different conditions, but you can’t have access to them. Your choice of hospital is a leap of faith. Should you have more information to make a better, more informed decision as to where you should be treated and by whom?

For the first time, a comprehensive study comparing how hospitals treat a variety of medical conditions was released in December, reports the New York Times. Researchers found those treated at the country’s worst hospitals were three times more likely to die and 13 times more likely to have medical complications than if they were treated in one of the best hospitals.

The study found there is wide variation in outcomes from hospital to hospital and from region to region.

  • Researchers looked at 22 million hospital admissions and information from the federal Medicare program and private insurance companies.
  • They analyzed the data and used two dozen measures of medical outcomes.
  • They adjusted the results for how ill the patients were, their age and income.
  • Wide differences were found among hospitals, including that many of the better hospitals were not uniformly good. For instance, one may do very well with heart patients but have many poor outcomes for orthopedics.

Like businesses, government agencies or law firms, not all hospitals are the same. Some are better than others in some areas and worse in others. If there’s an emergency like a heart attack, generally it’s best to go to the nearest hospital. But another one slightly farther away may be much better at treating them.

As important as these statistics are, there are many factors that go into how well a patient may respond. They include the patient’s age and overall health, the skills of the doctors and how a hospital chooses to treat a given disease or condition.

We have become very successful with personal injury cases because we have handled so many of them over the years. The more cases we handle, the better we become at helping our clients. The same is true of healthcare. Being seen by a doctor who has treated the same condition hundreds or thousands of times increases the chances the outcome will be the best you could hope for.

Not included in the study’s report were the names of the hospitals and their results. Researchers had to agree that, in exchange for access to the data, they would keep the identities of the hospitals confidential. Some information is available through Medicare’s Hospital Compare, but the data is very limited.

Study authors say patients need better information and ask why we don’t we have better transparency about hospital performance. This information on outcomes can help patients make better decisions as to where they should be treated, especially when their choices are limited by their health insurance carriers who may want to send patients where treatment is the least expensive, not the best.

One reason why an outcome at a hospital isn’t what it should be may be medical malpractice. Because of negligence by the treating physician, medical staff or the hospital, a patient may suffer serious injuries or death. If you believe that you or a family member has been injured because of medical malpractice in New Jersey, schedule a free consultation with our office by calling us at (973) 358-6134 or by using our online quick connect form. Contact us so you can learn about your legal rights and take action to protect your ability to seek compensation.

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