The Wall Street Journal published an article on Christmas day that told the story of an 83 year old woman who suffered a heart attack after a joint replacement at a rural hospital. The story serves as an introduction to a piece about the higher cost and poorer care delivered at rural hospitals. There are certainly some very interesting points I was not aware of with regards to financial incentives provided by the government to do procedures at rural ‘critical access’ hospitals, as well as higher 30 day mortality after joint replacement surgery at these rural hospitals.
The Wall Street Journal article does provide this nugget from a Harvard public health researcher: “Patients are getting bad outcomes, probably because they are getting procedures at hospitals without the experience to do it well.”
This certainly may be true, but no data exists in the article to back-up this assertion. Are there more infectious complications of the surgery? Are there more re-operations? Are the surgeons that operate at these centers less experienced?