You go to the hospital to get well. But far too many people die after something goes wrong. Patients get the wrong drugs, fail to get needed tests or treatments or develop infections that could have been prevented.
John James has dedicated himself to improving hospital safety. His teenage son died after what James says was a series of hospital errors. The Journal of Patient Safety published James' analysis, which estimates 440,000 people a year die after suffering medical errors in hospitals. James says that makes it the third biggest cause of death after heart disease and cancer.
Consumer Reports has also studied hospital safety and has rated more than 2,500 hospitals on how safe they are. For its mortality ratings, Consumer Reports uses the most recent data available from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The Mortality Ratings are based on how likely patients are to die within 30 days of being admitted for a heart attack, heart failure or pneumonia. They also consider how often surgery patients with serious treatable complications die in the hospital.
Although this data is from people 65 and older, Consumer Reports says it's a good indication of a hospital's attention to safety. And it shows that the chance of dying is much higher in some hospitals than others. The hope is that putting a spotlight on safety, will help motivate hospitals to do a better job at preventing hospital errors.
As part of their research for the May 2014 issue, experts at Consumer Reports offer more information, plus advice on how to find a good hospital. They stress that your best defense against hospital errors is being an informed patient and having a friend or family member with you as much as possible.