Top 5 Worst Hospitals

In the United States, no widespread development of hospitals occured before the 1880s. Almshouses, the precursor to hospitals, existed in almost all cities of moderate size, however, these institutions mainly provided food and shelter to the destitute. Pesthouses were used to quarantine people that had contracted contagious diseases. When the “dreaded hospital” finally developed, mortality rates among hospital patients stood around 74% in the 1870s. It was no personal choice to check into a hospital. And while hospital outcomes have definitely turned for the best, there are still those hospitals that one might want to avoid.

In a dataset published by CMS, eight different types of hospital acquired outcomes are measured and reported by local hospitals receiving Medicare funding. From that dataset, below are the 5 worst hospitals in each of the eight categories. Getting sick? You may want to check out your local hospital ratings before making a decision.

Air Bubbles in the Blood Stream

Air embolism is a pathological condition caused by gas bubbles in the vascular system. This condition generally occurs when a blood vessel opens (think drawing blood) and a pressure gradient favors entry of gas (air). Air can then travel to the lungs and heart, raising pressure and even traveling to the brain. Now, for this dataset, the definition of
air bubbles in the blood stream” is not exactly crystal clear, however, a little background on air embolism didn’t hurt. As for the top 5 worst hospitals for air embolism:

Signs of Uncontrolled Blood Sugar

In the context of high blood sugar, fatigue, increased urination, thirst, weight loss, muscle cramps and change in vision are signs to watch out for. The top 5 worst for uncontrolled blood sugar:

Severe pressure sores (bed sores)

More properly known as pressure ulcers, bed sores are lesions caused by unrelieveed pressure, friction or humidity to any part of the body. Although often preventable and treatable, they can be very difficult to prevent in frail elderly patients, wheelchair users, and terminally ill patients. They are also one of the leading iatrogenic causes of death reported in developing countries. The top 5:

Objects accidentally Left in the Body After Surgery

This one is the talk of the town in a lot of the information the media generally puts out about hospitals and adverse outcomes. According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, patients with retained foreign bodies were more likely to have had emergency surgery (33% v. 7%-controls) or an unexpected change in surgical procedure. According to HHS, this refers to objects such as surgical instruments, sponges and other objects left inside the body following a surgical procedure. The top 5 worst:

Mismatched Blood Types

Patients given a wrong type of blood can have severe reactions that can be fatal if not treated. Symptoms range from back pain, blood in the urin, to yellowing of the skin. The top 5 worst:

Infection from a Urinary Catheter

Urinary tract infections are the most common infections that hospital patients experience while in the hospital. For patients with little control over their bladder, urinary catheters can be left in place for long periods of time, increasing the risk of UTIs. The top 5 worst:

Falls and Injuries

Most hospital falls and injuries can be avoided by increased patient-staff interaction. Hospital falls and injuries include broken or dislocated bones, crushing injuries and even burns. The top 5 worst:

Blood Infections from a Catheter in a Large Vein

These refer to infections caused by vascular catheters. These catheters can put patients at risk for serious infections and complications if they are kept in for long periods of time. The top 5 worst:

While many of the rates reported were close to negligible, when over 6 out of every 1,000 patients being operated on have left-over surgical equipment stuck in their bodies, it’s hard to dumb down even the lowest rate. Looking for local hospitals to get treatment? Check out this tool developed by Health & Human Services that allows you to compare local hospitals.

**updated 7/13 to correct data on Infections From a Urinary Catheter

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  1. Pj graves

    Good highlight of risk areas. Anyone else notice that the urinary tract infections and falls data were identical? I wonder which one is true and what sat is missing.

    • Bogdan Rau

      Thanks for the catch PJ! I went back to the dataset as soon as I saw your comment and realized I duplicated tables by mistake. The urinary infection data was wrong (and now corrected)! Also, the dataset used can be found here.

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