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Hospital death rates rising.

Hospital Death Rates Rising

More than 3.2% of the nation's nearly 6,000 hospitals had death rates above the expected range last year, according to a study by the Department of Health and Human Services. At the same time, the percentage of hospitals with mortality rates below their expected range also increased, to 6.2% from 5.8%. The 14-volume report, organized according to geographic regions by the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), covered 17 causes of death, including cancer, infectious diseases, and kidney failure.

While citing improvements in the 1987 study, many hospital industry officials complained that it presents little or no indication of the quality of care.

Fred Graefe, Washington counsel to the American Protestant Health Association, called the study "warmed-over bureaucratic mush," because it fails to provide consumers the information they need when choosing hospitals.

William Roper, administrator of the HCFA, said that the report actually would be helpful to consumers, who could use it to ask better questions of doctors and hospitals, but cautioned that it is only a screening device.

"We do not have any direct measurement tool," he said, "with which we can adjust fully to differences among hospitals in how severely ill their patients are," particularly in urban public hospitals that have "unique problems and patient populations."
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Title Annotation:study by the Department of Health and Human Services
Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Mar 22, 1990
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