Consumer Report: Best Hospitals for Surgery

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - Many hospitals gather information on how patients fare after surgery, but it's not typically available to the public. Lacking that information can make it hard to compare hospitals when you're scheduling surgery.

Consumer Reports just rated nearly 2500 hospitals for common surgical procedures, like hip or knee replacement, using a hospital-billing data. Jacqueline Birnbaum says her father had high hopes when he went to the hospital for a hip replacement.

"He thought it was going to improve his quality of life and make it easier for him to get around, and make it more comfortable for him," Birnbaum said.

Birnbaum says the surgery appeared to go well. But afterward, her father developed an infection and died without ever leaving the hospital.

If you're scheduling a surgery, Consumer Reports says the hospital you choose can make a big difference, that after analyzing three years of Medicare billing records from nearly 2500 hospitals with the help of the health care consulting firm MPA.The analysis covered 27 kinds of common surgeries, including hip and knee replacement, back surgery, and surgery to clear blocked arteries.

"We rated hospitals based on the percent of Medicare patients undergoing surgery who died or were hospitalized longer than expected, which could indicate complications," Dr. John Santa of Consumer Reports said.

Enloe Medical Center in Chico, California, is one of the highest-rated hospitals. Administrators say its attention to detail has led to dramatic improvements in recent years. Consumer Reports hopes its ratings will motivate hospitals to set high standards and empower patients.

"We know the ratings aren't a perfect measurement, but we think they're an important first step in giving patients the information they need to make an informed choice," Dr. John Santa of Consumer Reports said.

The hospital where Marvin Birnbaum went earned a low overall surgery rating from Consumer Reports. Jacqueline Birnbaum says she wishes her dad could have had access to this type of information.

The survey included 15 hospitals in Idaho. St. Luke's in downtown Boise was one of three that received the highest mark possible. For a look at where other Idaho hospitals rank, click