A Consumer Reports investigation found some hospitals pose more risk than others, although bad things can happen at even the best hospitals.
Many surgical-site infections can be prevented, according to Consumer Reports. Yet about one in 20 hospitalized patients develops an infection, and that's only one concern with hospital care.
A 2010 government report finds mistakes and other medical harm contribute to an estimated 15,000 deaths each month. And that's just among Medicare patients.
"And this figure is conservative. Many of the medical mistakes that occur in hospitals are not reported, so we only know about a fraction of the errors that occur," said internal medicine specialist Dr. John Santa.
How safe is your hospital? Consumer Reports analyzed data from more than a thousand hospitals in 44 states and gave each hospital a safety rating in several categories, including:
- Avoiding infections
- Readmissions after discharge
- Clear communication about drugs and discharge
- Overuse of CT scans
The ratings show that even the best hospitals have room for improvement.
"No hospital got a top score for preventing patients from being readmitted, or for communicating with patients about discharge instructions and new medications," said Dr. Santa.
The Consumer Reports survey covered several Southern California hospitals.
These five were near the top of the ratings:
- Alhambra Hospital Medical Center
- Tri-City Regional Medical Center
- St. Joseph Hospital of Orange
- Sherman Oaks Hospital
- Anaheim Regional Medical Center
These five are near the bottom of the ratings:
- USC University Hospital
- Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo
- West Hills Hospital and Medical Center
- Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center
- St. Bernardine Medical Center in San Bernardino
Consumer Reports says hospitals are not required to make all their safety data available, and many don't, so at this point its ratings cover only about one-fifth of American hospitals.
The advocacy arm of Consumer Reports has called for a nationwide system to track and report medical errors to the public.