Imagine you are sick and live in New York City. Your doctor tells you that you need major surgery. Luckily, you have excellent insurance and can go anywhere in the city for that operation.
Being a good consumer, you decide to check the HospitalSafetyScore.org website, which is sponsored by the Leapfrog Group, a nationally known patient safety organization.
You pull up a handy map of upper Manhattan and the lower Bronx to check the safety scores of hospitals in that area which is near your neighborhood.
A hospital on the Manhattan side (orange arrow) has a safety score of only "C" while over in the Bronx, there is an "A" rated hospital (blue arrow).
It's a no-brainer, right?
Clearly the safer of the two is the one with the "A" rating.
But consider this. The "A" rated hospital is Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center, one of 11 hospitals owned and run by the city of New York. It is a teaching hospital. But there is little research going on, and there are no regionally or nationally recognized experts in just about any specialty of medicine or surgery practicing there.
The "C" rated hospital is New York Presbyterian, the main teaching hospital of Columbia University's medical school.
A 2012 patient safety study by Consumer Reports rated Lincoln as the 16th worst hospital for safety in the NY metro area. Presbyterian did not make that list of 30 such hospitals.
Healthgrades rates New York Presbyterian as #5 of 203 hospitals in New York State with 15 5-Star ratings and 11 quality awards. Lincoln was ranked at #88 with 3 5-Star ratings and 1 quality award.
US News & World Report published a list of the 18 best hospitals in the country that made its "Honor Roll." That list included New York Presbyterian at #7, and it was the highest rated hospital in the New York area.
Now which hospital would you choose?