A new study suggests that hospitals’ 30-day mortality rates for heart attack patients are predictive of longer term outcomes. The research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found there was an additional 9 to 14 months of life expectancy for patients treated at hospitals that perform better on relevant consensus quality measures.
The Associated Press reports the study’s data were drawn from approximately 1,800 hospitals and included the records of 120,000 Medicare patients. The researchers focused their work on patients treated between 1994 and 1996, giving them a retrospective view that stretches to around two decades.
“This is really an important study,” University of California at San Francisco cardiologist Ralph Brindis, MD, MPH, MACC, FSCAI, FAHA, tells the AP. “Delivering better care not only saves lives, but that the gain persists over 17 years, independent of how sick the patients were initially.”
Significant advances in cardiac care have taken place since the mid-1990s, but researchers maintain the short-term hospital rates they’ve examined show a consistency in the advantage of treatment at highly-rated facilities.
Though different facilities have different long-term outcomes, the researchers are quick to point out that shopping around isn’t exactly an option for people in the midst of a cardiac crisis. Study co-author Harlan M. Krumholz, MD, SM, relays advice to prospective patients through the AP news story.
“Just call 911,” Krumholz urges. “Too many people wait at home too long.”