It seems like common sense: patients treated in better hospitals should live longer. But do they?
A study of the survival rates of heart attack patients treated between 1994 and 2012 suggests that they do. The researchers looked at short-term survival but also followed the patients for 17 years. Because the risk of dying from different diseases at different times varies, the study took all those important factors into account. “High-performing” hospitals are defined as those with lower mortality rates. Likewise, “low-performing” hospitals are associated with higher mortality rates. The researchers made sure that any differences they found in life expectancies were due to hospital performance, not factors such as whether the sickest patients go to hospitals affiliated with medical schools rather than community hospitals, for example. They did this by statistically controlling for the possible impact of patient characteristics such as age, gender, race, and medical history.
Among hospitals with similar types of patients, the results show patients treated at high-performing hospitals lived between 9 and 13 months longer on average compared to patients treated at low-performing hospitals.
This study suggests that hospitals that focus on improving the quality of care and short-term health care outcomes will also be the most likely to help patients live longer. Patients sometimes just want to go to the most conveniently located hospital or the one that they are familiar with. This study shows that choosing hospitals with the best track record of patient care may be much more important.
All articles are reviewed and approved by Dr. Diana Zuckerman and other senior staff.
- Bucholz, E. M., Butala, N. M., Ma, S., Normand, S. T., & Krumholz, H. M. (2016). Life Expectancy after Myocardial Infarction, According to Hospital Performance. New England Journal of Medicine, 375(14), 1332-1342.