What are the odds?

It’s hot in Las Vegas and the heat is on local hospitals as the Las Vegas Sun begins an ongoing quality investigation:

As part of a two-year investigation, Sun reporters Marshall Allen and Alex Richards have obtained a record of every Nevada hospital inpatient visit going back a decade — 2.9 million in all. The information, coupled with interviews with more than 150 patients and health care insiders, has yielded a sweeping and detailed portrait of hospital care in Las Vegas.

Revealed are the dangers patients have unknowingly encountered as they enter delivery rooms, surgical suites and intensive care units, including thousands of cases of injury, death and deadly infection associated with stays in Las Vegas hospitals.

There have been previous red flags about hospital safety. A suicidal patient, for instance, recently hanged himself while under observation at MountainView Hospital, and a woman in labor was ignored at University Medical Center, leading to a miscarriage.

A recent study found that Nevada hospitals have the worst rate in the nation of readmissions in the nation, meaning discharged patients needed to return within 30 days to the hospitals for additional care.

But the public has not known the scope of the problems, even though the state has been gathering inpatient data since 1986. The data, gathered primarily for cost-control purposes, are based on individual hospital billing records that state law mandates be collected for the purpose of analysis.

Witty swipes aside–the question now is what’s next? Will patients use the data to make hospital choices (something that hasn’t really gained traction on a national level…yet)? Will patients be able to interpret the data? How will the hospitals react?

There’s a joke about Las Vegas healthcare according to the article:

“Where do you go for great health care in Las Vegas?”

“The airport.”

The fact remains, however, that there isn’t an in depth way to compare hospitals nationally. The initial data presented doesn’t reflect favorably on Las Vegas healthcare, but where that puts those hospitals against others in the nation isn’t apparent. 

Las Vegas hospitals fought the release of the data. I’m sure their arguments had some merit; but for the betterment of healthcare in Las Vegas and around the country data publication like this is necessary. With the attention the Sun will receive for the investigation, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it replicated by other newspapers around the country.

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