Consumer Reports ranks D.C. area’s safest hospitals

WASHINGTON — Getting the right medical attention at hospitals can be life-saving and five D.C. area hospitals are being recognized for their patient care, overall safety and capacity to save lives.

Consumer Reports released its list of hospital rankings and five local hospitals scored 60 or higher on the magazine’s 100-point hospital safety score. Top top-ranked hospital, Billings Clinic in Billings, Mont., scored 72.

The top five local hospitals:

  1. Calvert Memorial Hospital in Prince Frederick, Md. (68)
  2. Fort Washington Medical Center in Maryland (61)
  3. Virginia Hospital Center – in Arlington, Va. (61)
  4. MedStar Montgomery Medical Center in Olney, Md. (60)
  5. Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center in Woodbridge, Va. (60)

Calvert Memorial Hospital earned Consumer Reports’ highest rating in avoiding surgical-site infections. It reported zero surgical-site infections in 72 surgical procedures among its patients between April 1, 2012 and March 31, 2013.

MedStar Montgomery and Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center earned Consumer Reports’ highest ratings for avoiding bloodstream infections. Both hospitals reported zero infections between April 1, 2012 and March 31, 2013.

D.C.’s Providence Hospital scored on the lower end of the spectrum with a score of 28. The lowest-ranking hospital was Sacred Heart Hospital in Chicago, which had a score of 16.

Providence Hospital ranked No. 2 in avoiding mortality, however.

Consumer Reports rated a total of 34 hospitals in the D.C. area.

John James, who works with Consumer Reports’ Safe Patient Project, estimated that 440,000 people each year die after suffering a medical error in the hospital, according to Consumer Reports. That makes patient harm in hospitals the nation’s third leading cause of death, trailing only heart disease and cancer, James says.

Dr. Doris Peter, associate director of Consumer Reports Health, says the hospitals that did the best in the rankings excelled in using proper procedures, following up with patients after they left the hospital and paying attention to side effects during and after surgeries.

When patients are deciding from which hospital they should get care, Peters says they should look at the hospital’s individual rating score and know where the hospital has weaknesses.

Asking lots of questions is crucial for patients, too, she adds.

“There are so many ways patients can become engaged and prevent errors from happening,” she says. “Really, consumers need to ask questions.”

For more information about how Consumer Reports ranks hospitals, visit the Consumer Reports website.

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