medicare data slams teaching hospitals including geisinger

A huge irony resides in the medical community that underscores a central misconception about certain hospitals.

Namely, those institutions would be the nation’s preeminent teaching facilities — those with prominent names and vast amounts of research funding, where doctors at the top of their fields examine patients with hands-on expertise while imparting knowledge to some of the country’s brightest young doctors and medical students.

The paradox that marks many of these facilities: Comparatively, they lag supposedly lesser institutions in many aspects of the medical care they offer, which increases medical malpractice and other risks for patients.

Which, in turn, raises this question: What exactly are they teaching?

A case in point is the Geisinger Medical Center here in Pennsylvania, a facility that has been named in many studies as one of the country’s finest hospitals.

Notwithstanding the accolade, Geisinger and several similarly ranked hospitals nationally have also been termed as places where patients are at especially high risk for suffering preventable complications. That information comes courtesy of Medicare, which is now publishing hospitals’ safety data as a means to inform consumers and introduce better price logic into hospital stays.

Many teaching hospitals are clearly displeased being under the microscope and vigorously dispute the data. They say that researchers often measure the wrong things and that not enough care has been taken to adjust for different types and severities of illness. Teaching hospitals, they note, care for high numbers of very ill patients with complicated conditions. That fact alone, they contend, can materially skew the numbers.

As for Geisinger, the official response seems to be to simply take the medicine and get better from it.

John Bulger, the hospital’s chief quality officer, says the facility is “perfectly fine” with the data.

“At Geisinger,” he states, “we would never shy away from the number and say, ‘We don’t need to get better than this.”’

Source: Washington Post, “Medicare study finds teaching hospitals have higher risk of complications; findings disputed,” Jordan Rau, Feb. 12, 2012

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