Hospitals vary widely in how patients fare after surgery, even those within the same highly regarded organizations, according to new ratings from Consumer Reports.The well-known product tester and consumer advocate said it used Medicare data from 2009 through 2011 to rate 2,463 U.S. hospitals based on how many patients died or were hospitalized longer than expected after 27 different surgeries. The magazine also rated hospitals on performance for five specific surgeries.The full results will be published in the September issue of Consumer Reports and posted online.Rural hospitals performed better than average, Consumer Reports said, and teaching hospitals, “thought to represent the nation’s best and the recipients of generous federal funding,” were rated average. Several North Texas hospitals were included in partial ratings released by Consumer Reports in advance of the release of its full report today. Of those institutions:• The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and the North Central Surgical Center in Dallas received the highest rating for overall surgery. Baylor’s Jack and Jane Hamilton Heart and Vascular Hospital in Dallas had the highest rating for carotid artery surgery, and Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano was top-rated for back surgery.• Baylor Medical Center at Uptown Dallas and Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Denton had the second-best rating for overall surgery.• Medical City Dallas, Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, and Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano were all rated average for overall surgery.• Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Denton Regional Medical Center, Medical Center of Lewisville, and Methodist Richardson Medical Center and Medical Plaza Medical Center of Fort Worth were rated below-average for overall surgery.• Baylor Medical Center at Carrollton and Methodist Dallas Medical Center had the lowest rating for overall surgery.In response, Baylor Health Care System, based in Dallas, said it supports the public’s access to hospital data and noted that some of its facilities did well, but it said the information had limitations such as its age. Baylor pointed out that some respected hospitals received low ratings “potentially because these hospitals care for the most seriously ill patients in their region.”Arlington-based Texas Health Resources said it is “not content with being average, and we are continually working to raise the performance bar on all measures of patient care.”Dallas-based Methodist Health System said it posts quality-of-care performance on its own website and contributes data to federal and state regulators as well as private surveys. The organization said “no single report today captures a panoramic view of all aspects of quality and safety in health care, but the data are improving.” It also recommended Medicare’s Hospital Compare service: www.medicare.gov/hospitalcompare.Dr. John Santa, medical director for Consumer Reports Health, said in a statement that while the ratings aren’t “a perfect measurement,” they’re important in giving patients the information they need to make an informed choice. And, he added, “we hope that by highlighting performance differences, we can motivate hospitals to improve.”In a March report, the not-for-profit Kaiser Health News cautioned that “evaluations of hospitals are proliferating,” but that ratings “often come to wildly divergent conclusions” that can change from year to year. It said much hospital quality data “is rudimentary, as the science of evaluating hospitals is still in its adolescence.” Consumer Reports said: “Big-name hospitals don’t always live up to their reputation when it comes to these ratings.” For example, it noted that “while several Mayo Clinic hospitals did well, others rated only average” and one had a low overall rating.
Jim Fuquay, 817-390-7552 Twitter: @jimfuquay