University of Pennsylvania Health System

How Mortality Rates Affect Quality Scores

Death rates from heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia are widely viewed as measures of a hospital's overall performance. One way to tell whether a hospital is doing a good job is to find out whether patients admitted to the hospital have mortality (death) rates that are lower (better), equal to, or higher (worse) than the U.S. national rate, given how sick they were when they were admitted to the hospital.

Penn Medicine has maintained low mortality rates, and its passion for providing exceptional quality care has led to a system-wide goal of eliminating preventable mortality through its interdisciplinary care approach. 

While there is no commonly accepted definition of preventable deaths, Penn believes there are several factors that can contribute. For example, an underlying condition such as hypertension can go undetected and lead to a potentially fatal disease. Or the administration of an incorrect medication can result in fatality. Coupled with the goal of reducing 30-day readmissions, Penn has worked hard to find these underlying conditions and to treat them, reducing mortality risks and readmissions.

The hard work is paying off. Penn Medicine is ranked in the Top Ten among all U.S. News & World Report hospitals.

In fiscal year 2012, Penn Medicine reduced preventable mortality (death) from .69 to .63 - an 8.7 percent improvement (the lower from 1.0 the better).  Penn has made significant progress towards its goal to eliminate preventable deaths by reducing its risk adjusted, or observed to expected mortality ratio by 8.7%. There has been steady progress in reducing mortality in each of the hospitals as seen in the Mortality Index graph. These improvements have resulted in a cumulative number of 1,767 lives saved since FY 2009. Lives saved is calculated by taking the difference between the number of deaths Penn would have had if it had a mortality index, or observed to expected ratio, of 1.0 and the number of actual deaths Penn experienced.