Hospital Studies Reinforce the Need for Consumer Savvy

Two studies about how hospitals care for patients confirm the wisdom of researching the facilities where you’re considering having an inpatient procedure, and for enlisting a strong patient advocate to act on your behalf once you’ve been admitted.

In our Better Health Care newsletter, we’ve addressed how to find the best hospitals and the importance of having someone to protect your interests while you’re hospitalized.

As reported on, patients treated in “magnet” hospitals-or those recognized for their nursing excellence-recorded lower death rates than those in nonmagnet hospitals. The study, by the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, involved four states and 564 hospitals. The designation of “magnet” is conferred by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, and recognizes high-quality patient care, advanced nursing education and nursing innovation.

Approximately 400 U.S. health-care facilities are recognized as magnet hospitals, or about 8 in 100. The University of Pennsylvania study studied hospitals in California, Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, representing more than 20 in 100 annual hospitalizations. Nearly 100,000 registered nurses were included in the study, which was published in the journal Medical Care.

Researchers analyzed data from 56 magnet and 508 nonmagnet hospitals with a focus on differences for surgical patients in the odds of mortality and “failure to rescue.” That term indicates measures taken to prevent adverse events, such as hospital-acquired infection, cardiac arrest, shock, etc. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), this measure can signal the quality of monitoring, the effectiveness of actions taken once early complications are recognized, or both. The Pennsylvania researchers determined that magnet hospitals had 14 percent lower odds of death, and 12 percent lower odds of failure to rescue.

The study’s authors concluded that “Magnet recognition identifies existing quality and stimulates further positive organizational behavior that improves patient outcomes.”

Another study of interest to potential hospital patients was reported in the Annals of Surgery. It suggested that medical mistakes often are made during the postoperative care of patients who have undergone major elective surgery, putting them at risk for serious complications. Researchers found that patients at teaching hospitals routinely experience as many as five procedural mistakes during their recovery.

The most common of these errors are receiving the wrong drugs or drugs delivered the wrong way, and being given incorrect instructions, test results or diagnoses.

According to a story on, more than half of what are known as “process failures” result in serious harm to patients; most, it appears, can be prevented.

The study was unusual in that its focus was what happens after, not during, surgery. The researchers investigated a large gastrointestinal surgery center and observed patients from the day after surgery until they were discharged. In 659 days of observed post-op care, there were 256 process failures. In more than 8 in 10 of those cases, the failure was preventable; in half of the cases, patients suffered harm as a result of the failure.

“Interventions to prevent process failures will improve the reliability of surgical postoperative care,” the study authors concluded, “and have the potential to reduce hospital stay.”

To find a magnet hospital, check out the resources of the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

Patrick Malone & Associates, P.C. listed in Best Lawyers Rated by Super Lawyers Patrick A. Malone
Washingtonian Top Lawyer 2011
Avvo Rating 10.0 Superb Top Attorney Best Lawyers Firm
Contact Information