A new report from CNN.com reveals that nearly half of the hospitals that perform children’s heart surgery provide no data or statistics on surgical death rates. In fact, 60 out of 109 hospitals fail to provide that basic information that patients may rely on. What’s worse? That means that parents have no idea what the death rate from surgery could be for their child based on the 22,000 babies and children who have heart surgery each year.
As hospitals focus more on becoming profit centers than patient care centers, they have taken new steps to attract new patients. Hospital websites employ pictures of happy children and families and use glowing adjectives to describe their surgical programs. All of this is an effort to entice parents to choose that particular hospital over its competitors. That imagery, however, stands in stark contrast to the truth: According to the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, among the 109 hospitals studied, the death rates range from 1.4% to 12.1%. That is a gigantic difference in programs’ safety, and that difference could mean danger for your child. While the society finds public reporting of the data to be a public service, when it asked hospitals to do so, only one in three agreed. Those results beg the question: What are these hospitals hiding?
Since hospitals do very little to inform the public about their track record and mortality rates, it is unfortunately up to the patient to investigate on his or her own. The most important thing a patient can do is ask questions of the doctor(s) to gain further insight into his or her success with the surgery.