Many hospitals gather information on how patients fare after surgery, but that information is not usually available to the public. So it is hard to compare hospitals when you're scheduling surgery. Consumer Reports just rated almost 2,500 hospitals for common surgical procedures, using a source of information that is available—hospital-billing data.
Researchers analyzed three years of Medicare billing records with the help of the health care consulting firm MPA. The analysis covered 27 kinds of common surgeries, including hip and knee replacements, back surgery, and surgery to clear blocked arteries.
Consumer Reports rated hospitals based on the percent of Medicare patients undergoing surgery who died or were hospitalized longer than expected, which could indicate complications.
Consumer Reports hopes its ratings will motivate hospitals to set high standards and empower patients.
Dr. John Santa, Consumer Reports' medical adviser, says, "We know the ratings aren't a perfect measurement, but we think they're an important first step in giving patients the information they need to make an informed choice."
Consumer Reports says if you think you've been harmed in the hospital, contact your local or state health department. If you're on Medicare, get in touch with your state's Medicare Quality Improvement Organization.