- Rochester, Minnesota topped the list of healthiest cities in terms of access to care, quality hospitals and other measures in Healthgrades' National Health Index of American cities, with Orlando, Florida, coming in last. Healthgrades' analysis shows hospitals in close proximity to one another can have "significant differences in complication and mortality rates for the same condition or procedure."
- Healthgrades assessed 4,500 short-term acute care hospitals and their performance on 32 common conditions and procedures. Patients treated at five-star hospitals have a lower risk of dying and a lower risk of experiencing one or more complications during a hospital stay than patients treated at one-star facilities.
- Specifically, the analysis showed that between 2015 and 2017, an average of 222,210 lives could potentially have been saved and 157,210 complications avoided if all hospitals performed similarly to five-star hospitals.
Geography matters when it comes to access to healthcare and quality of care.
"Consumers have many choices for healthcare, but most important is understanding that there is a significant variation in care from hospital to hospital and doctor to doctor," Brad Bowman, Healthgrades chief medical officer, said in a statement in releasing the 2019 Report to the Nation and National Health Index.
In Detroit, for example, the difference in risk-adjusted complication rates was 21.9 times lower at best-performing hospitals versus worst-performing hospitals. In St. Louis, risk-adjusted mortality rates were 22.5 times higher at poor-quality hospitals, compared with the cream of the crop.
To see how cities compare nationally, Healthgrades looks at overall health of residents, access to care, satisfaction with and availability of local specialists and access to high quality hospitals. The index draws its data from a variety of sources, including Healthgrades' hospital quality ratings and specialty and patient experience scores, information from the CDC and population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Rochester, Minnesota, ranked No.1 as the healthiest city, topping the list in both specialist care and access to great hospitals. Rounding out the top five were Burlington, Vermont, and Charleston, South Carolina, Cincinnati and Baltimore. San Francisco residents were healthiest overall, with high scores across population health factors that were assessed. Orlando ranked last on the list of 100 cities.
Bowman stressed that consumers need to diligent about "doing your homework before selecting your care. It could be a matter of life or death."
The report also highlights the growing number of people going online for healthcare information. Despite seeing their doctor as a trusted source, 57% of consumers turn to the internet first when they have a medical issue, the paper found.
That jibes with a recent Binary Foundation survey, which found 70% of Americans seek information online when choosing a doctor, and 41% do so even when a current provider referred them.
Meanwhile, population health efforts have a ways to go before seeing major impact. "Despite many studies that identify a strong link between social determinants and health afflictions, there are still fewer resources spent on prevention than on repair," according to the the report. To improve outcomes, providers should invest in addressing problems outside the hospital walls, such as food and housing insecurity.