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Massachusetts Hospital Mortality Rate Higher Than National Average

Armen Hareyan's picture

The overallmortality rate for Massachusettshospitals in 2005 was 7% higher than the national average, according to ananalysis by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, the BostonGlobereports. The analysis, based on Medicare and hospital data, calculatedmortality rates using the Hospital Standardized Mortality Ratio by dividing theactual number of deaths by the number of expected deaths multiplied by 100. Researchersused demographic and health characteristics to adjust the data to allow forcomparisons among hospitals.

The analysis found wide variation in mortality rates among the 56 hospitalsanalyzed, with mortality ratios ranging from 65 to 119. The state average ratiowas 89.3 and the national average was 83.5, when the data are adjusted for awider range of patient and demographic characteristics.

Brian Jarmon, who developed the mortality ratio methodology, said that becauseof Massachusetts' low level of poverty and high number of medical specialists,"you would expect [the mortality rate] to be even better than the nationalaverage." He added that hospitals might have misreported data to Medicareor "it also could be that the care is not as good."

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However, Karen Nelson, a nurse and senior vice president for clinical affairsfor the Massachusetts Hospital Association, said that the methodology used toconduct the analysis has not been validated by leading health quality groups asan accurate measure of hospital care. She added that the figures are of limitedvalue and do not show mortality rates for specific conditions or procedures.

Health Care for All last week planned to send a letter to statehealth officials demanding that they take action immediately to improve care athospitals with high mortality rates and that they publicly release mortalitydata for individual hospitals. The group also has asked health officials todetermine within the next three months the most reliable mortality measure, theGlobe reports (Kowalczyk, Boston Globe, 12/6).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily HealthPolicy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The HenryJ. Kaiser Family Foundation.