Top Hospitals Fall Flat in Contested New Report

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"This is something that all hospitals really work on very hard," chief quality officer Dr. Martha Radford said, adding that coordinating care has been a key focus at NYU Langone. "It starts before the patient gets to the hospital so people know how long they're going to be expected to stay."

She pointed out that although large teaching hospitals get complicated cases, some did well.

Radford noted that the Mayo Clinic did "very well, at least in one of their hospitals."

In Minnesota, where Mayo Clinic has seven separate hospitals on the list, one did very well, one did well, three were average, one was poor and another was very poor, according to the Consumer Reports' rankings.

Radford said that even though risk adjustment could compensate for differences in populations and case complexity, it wasn't perfect. Although billing data is used in many hospital ratings and rankings, it's not as good as other hospital data, said Radford.

"Billing data are useful, but they are not as nuanced as other data," she said, adding that NYU Langone routinely pays attention to its rankings and ratings, but only those in which the methodology is transparent.

As a patient, Consumer Reports' Peter said she would start with the Consumer Reports list she and her colleagues created. Then, she would look for other data points to determine whether to undergo surgery at a particular hospital. For instance, Peter said a surgeon her mother was considering had state sanctions against him, and she found out about them by searching a database on her state's health website.

Besser said patients should also ask their doctors how many procedures they've done and ask what their complication rates are.

"This is information that they should give you if you ask," he said. "When you are in the hospital, there are things you can do to reduce the chances you will be the victim of a medical error or will acquire an infection you didn't come in with."

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