Quality of health care is a critically important issue for patients. As consumers of medical services, it is tempting to assume that our lack of ability to effectively shop around for medical care means that health care services are more or less of equal quality wherever you go. That, however, is not true.

One area where the relative quality of health care services is evident is in mortality and readmission rates. Hospitals know this, and the good ones are constantly working to improve their performance when it comes to patient mortality and readmission, especially when it comes to certain conditions. According to a report recently published by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council, both mortality and readmission rates in Pennsylvania hospitals have apparently improved in the five-year period ending in 2014. That is certainly a good sign.

Reductions in overall mortality rates were noted for ten of the 16 conditions tracked by researchers, but the biggest improvements were seen in for a potentially deadly blood infection known as septicemia. Mortality rates for that condition declined from 17.7 percent in 2009 to 11 percent in 2014.

Statistically significant decreases in mortality rates were also noted for aspirational pneumonia, acute kidney failure, colorectal procedures, stroke, infectious pneumonia, kidney and urinary tract infections, COPD, congestive heart failure, and medical management of heart attacks. Increases were seen in statewide mortality rates for hypotension and fainting, as well as angioplasty and stent procedures.

In our next post, we’ll continue looking at the results of the report, and the significance of the study from the perspective of medical malpractice