TIME

Consumer Reports Helps You Shop for a Safer Hospital

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The publication scores facilities on communication, infections, re-admission, and other factors

One in 25 patients who are admitted to the hospital develop a hospital-acquired infection, according to the most recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

And that’s just one of the potential dangers to which patients are exposed when they are admitted for a procedure. Consumer Reports released eye-opening information about the safety of 2,591 hospitals in the U.S., including detailed information on mortality, how well hospitals communicated with patients, overuse of CT scans, hospital infections, and re-admission. The researchers used this information to score hospitals on a scale from 1 to 100. While the average hospital score was 51, on specific measures, the number of low-rated hospitals outnumbered the higher-rated ones.

MORE: Gloves and Gowns Don’t Stop Spread of All Infections in Hospitals

For example, on death rates, only 35 hospitals earned the group’s highest rating, while 66 came in at the lowest rating. Mortality data was broken down by deaths within 30 days of being admitted for a heart attack, heart failure or pneumonia or by surgical mortality, which represented deaths while admitted for treatable conditions such as blood clots and cardiac arrest.

For hospitals hoping to improve their rating, some factors are more modifiable than others, says Doris Peter, director of Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center. Reducing rates of double CT scans, for example, can be done more easily with an administrative system to flag such duplication. But re-admission and mortality rates, which can be influenced by everything from infections to poor follow-up to medical errors, may be more challenging to address.

MORE: Study: A Simple Surgery Checklist Saves Lives

Across the board, most hospitals also tended to score lower on the communication measure, which incorporates how well patients are informed and educated about their follow-up care and recovery. If patients aren’t maintaining their health after they leave the hospital, that could contribute to higher re-admission rates and poor outcomes.

Hospitals that are doing things right – with high standards for hand washing and other infection control measures, for instance – nearly halve their risk of deaths during surgery. To find out how your hospital scores, visit Consumer Reports.

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