Top hospitals do not have fewer complications, but they are better at “rescuing” patients with complications

Top hospitals achieve better outcomes not by preventing complications, but by preventing complications from becoming failures, according to an article in the New Yorker.

According to the article, written by Atul Gawande, researchers at the University of Michigan found that complication rates among top performing hospitals were comparable to those that were not top performing.  The top performing hospitals instead, were better at “rescuing” patients with complications.

Gawande outlines three main pitfalls for failing to rescue:  Choosing a wrong plan; having an inadequate plan;  or not recognizing the problem and having  no plan at all.

(Sources: The New Yorker,, June 4, 2012; The Advisory Board Daily Briefing,, June 8, 2012)