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America's best hospitals get the grade

February 24, 2010 |  7:16 pm

HealthGrade's list of the nation's 50 best hospitalswas released Tuesday, and California -- indeed the Los Angeles metropolitan area -- boasts three of them. Of California's 323 hospitals, the three singled out  are Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center in Glendale; Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles; and St. John's Hospital Health Center in Santa Monica.

This is definitely not a popularity contest: The hospitals are chosen for the distinction on the basis of a rigorous look at the mortality rates and the complication rates that their patients suffer after getting any one of 26 procedures or diagnoses. They must not only provide at least 19 of the 26 diagnoses and procedures assessed; they must also perform better than the expected average on most of those measures. And finally, they have to have a track record of having been on HealthGrades' 269-hospital list of the nation's top hospitals for the last eight years.

If all U.S. hospitals had performed from 2006-2008 at the level that HealthGrades' 50 top hospitals do, the organization estimates that 164,964 deaths might have been averted among Medicare patients alone, and that 18,900 Medicare patients who experienced in-hospital complications could have completed their treatment and gone home uneventfully.

In addition to being a useful source of all-around good hospitals, the HealthGrades report is a goldmine for finding a hospital with an excellent track record on the procedure or diagnosis of specific interest to you. For stroke care, for instance, four hospitals in Los Angeles have better-than-average track records on in-hospital mortality and mortality after a month and six months: They are Pacific Alliance Medical Center, Good Samaritan, Hollywood Presbyterian and Los Angeles Community Hospital. You can check hospitals' specific grades here.

--Melissa Healy