Hospital choice can affect your chance of surviving a high-risk surgery by 23%

Leapfrog: Choice of hospital 'can mean the difference between life and death'

The chances of surviving high-risk surgeries can vary by up to 23% depending on the hospital where patients go for care, according to a new analysis from The Leapfrog Group.

For the report, Leapfrog gathered 2013 data from 1,500 hospitals on four high-risk surgeries: pancreatectomy, esophagectomy, replacement of the heart's aortic valve, and abdominal aortic aneurysm repair. The organization analyzed the mortality rates for the procedures performed and then tailored the numbers to determine a "predicted survival" estimate for each procedure at any given facility.

The report found significant variation in predicted survival rates:

  • Pancreatectomy predicted survival rates ranged from 81% to 100%, with a quality benchmark of 91.3%;
  • Esophagectomy predicted survival rates ranged from 88% to 98%, with a quality benchmark of 91.7%;
  • Aortic valve replacement predicted survival rates ranged from 92% to 97%, with a quality benchmark of 95.6%; and
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm repair predicted survival rates ranged from 86% to 99%, with a quality benchmark of 97.3%.

"When it comes to major surgery, it's hard to think of an outcome more important than whether you live or die," says Harvard School of Public Health professor Ashish Jha, adding, "It's amazing there is such variability in mortality from these common surgeries, and patients should know that."

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Leapfrog spokesperson Erica Mobley says the data show that a patient's choice of hospital "can mean the difference between life and death," noting hospitals with lower survival rates could learn from high-performing hospitals.

Mobley says, "Hospitals need to be following best practices for the performance of these procedures" and making sure surgeons and staff are well-trained and well-equipped to handle these types of surgeries.

Leapfrog warns that, while the numbers can provide a helpful guide for patients deciding where to undergo a procedure, the data should be used with caution because survival rates also vary significantly based on the operating physician (Begley, Reuters, 3/12; Kitchenman;  New Jersey Spotlight, 3/12).

The takeaway: The Leapfrog Group this week released an analysis that found survival rate for some high-risk procedures can vary by up to 23% at different hospitals.


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