LITTLE ROCK, AR -- October is Health Literacy Month, which strives to highlight the importance of making understandable health information readily available to the public. Anyone who has been sick or has had a loved one who has been sick, knows first-hand the importance of having easily accessible information that’s communicated clearly. When preparing for a hospital stay, there are important considerations to make and questions to ask. Patient experience — whether other patients would recommend the hospital. Patient outcomes — how well hospitals prevent bloodstream and surgical-site infections, and the chance that patients have to be readmitted to a hospital within 30 days of their initial discharge. As part of an ongoing effort to shed light on hospital quality and to push the health care industry toward more transparency, Consumer Reports recently rated 2,463 hospitals in all 50 states on these and other measures. Their reasoning was that consumers have had little to go on when choosing a hospital for surgery. Safety score — This is a summary of several key categories related to hospital safety: avoiding infections, avoiding readmissions, communicating about new medications and discharge, appropriate use of chest and abdominal CT scanning, avoiding serious complications, and avoiding mortality. The survey looked specifically at the following five procedures: back surgery, hip replacement, knee replacement, angioplasty and carotid artery surgery. Up to 30 percent of patients suffer infections, heart attacks, strokes or other complications after surgery. The report ranked Saline Memorial Hospital in Benton the No. 1 hospital in Arkansas for surgical safety. A hospital’s rate of avoiding bloodstream infections and using chest scanning appropriately are important statistics to research and/or ask about. Central line-associated bloodstream infections result in thousands of deaths each year and billions of dollars in added costs to the U.S. healthcare system, yet these infections are preventable. Many of the problems were caused by the hospitals’ failure to use measures that had been proved to avert mistakes and to prevent infections from devices like urinary catheters, ventilators and lines inserted into veins and arteries.
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