Billings Clinic in Montana is the safest hospital in the US, while Sacred Heart Hospital in Chicago scored lowest, according to Consumer Reports' first-ever list of the best and worst medical facilities.
According to the organization, a 2010 US Department of Health and Human Services report said that infections, surgical error, and other types of medical malpractice contribute to the deaths of as many as 180,000 Medicare patients each year, and most likely numerous non-Medicare patients as well.
As a result of those figures, officials from Consumer Reports collected information on more than 1,100 hospitals in 44 different states, interviewed patients, doctors and other medical professionals, and reviewed medical literature and hospital inspection procedures as part of their inaugural health care rankings system.
Dr. John Santa, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center, told CBS News that the organization considered six different factors in compiling their ratings system: infections, communications about safety issues, how soon patients return to the hospital after discharges, over-use of imaging tests that expose patients to radiation, common complications, and fatality rate for multiple conditions.
Sacred Heart Hospital earned just 16 out of 100 points on Consumer Reports' safety scale. The Chicago-based hospital, which declined the group's request for comment, reportedly had a bloodstream-infection rate among patients that was twice the national benchmark, they said.
"Across the board, in those six areas, they did not do well," Dr. Santa told CBS News. "They got many of our lowest or close-to-lowest scores. So they weren't preventing infections. These complications were happening. People (were) getting bedsores, falling. They had problems with doing two CT scans when one would suffice. There were a lot of things they could do better."
Also in the bottom 10 hospitals were Harlem Hospital Center in New York (20), Lake Regional Health System in Osage Beach, Mo. (22), Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn (22), Our Lady of the Resurrection Medical Center in Chicago (23), Kimball Medical Center in Lakewood, N.J. (24), St. Rose Dominican Hospitals-San Martin Campus in Las Vegas (24), Clinch Valley Medical Center in Richlands, Va. (25), Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y. (25), and Hanford Community Medical Center in Hanford, Calif. (25).
Billings Clinic, on the other hand, topped the list with a safety score of 72, followed by Saint Clare's Hospital in Weston, Wis., Alton Memorial Hospital in Alton, Ill., Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin, Vt., and Kadlec Medical Center in Richland, Wash., all of which scored 71 on the Consumer Reports safety rankings. Rounding out the top 10 were St. John's Hospital in Springfield, Mo. (70), Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix (70), Northern Michigan Regional Hospital in Petoskey, Mich. (69), Bon Secours St. Francis Health System in Greenville, S.C. (69), and Memorial Hospital of Union County in Marysville, Ohio (68).
Some other prominent hospitals posted "less-than-outstanding" scores in the safety department, they said. Among them are Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston (45), Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles (43), the Cleveland Clinic (39), New York-Presbyterian (32), and Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York (30).
"A challenge is these are hospitals that have a lot of priorities," Dr. Santa explained. "We have a lot of expectations from them. They do teaching. They take care of tough patients. Our concern is, even for them, safety needs to be the top or near the top priority... We're concerned that those really best hospitals are the ones we expect to be best aren't doing as well as we would all think."