A Pragmatic Method for Measuring Inpatient Complications and Complication-Specific Mortality

J Patient Saf. 2022 Oct 1;18(7):659-666. doi: 10.1097/PTS.0000000000000984. Epub 2022 Feb 8.


Objectives: The primary objective of this study was to develop hospital-level metrics of major complications associated with mortality that allows for the identification of opportunities for improvement. The secondary objective is to improve upon current metrics for failure to rescue (i.e., death from serious but treatable complications.).

Methods: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality metrics served as the basis for identifying specific complications related to major organ system morbidity associated with death. Complication-specific occurrence rates, observed mortality, and risk-adjusted mortality indices were calculated for the study institution and 182 peer organizations using component International Classification of Disease, Tenth Revision codes. Data were included for adults over a 4-year period, with exclusion of hospice patients and complications present on admission. Temporal visualizations of each metric were used to compare past and recent performance at the study hospital and in comparison to peers.

Results: The complication-specific method showed statistically significant differences in the study hospital occurrence rates and associated mortality rates compared with peer institutions. The monthly control-chart presentation of these metrics provides assessment of hospital-level interventions to prevent complications and/or reduce failure to rescue deaths.

Conclusions: The method described supplements existing metrics of serious complications that occur during the course of acute hospitalization allowing for enhanced visualization of opportunities to improve care delivery systems. This method leverages existing measure components to minimize reporting burden. Monthly time-series data allow interventions to prevent and/or rescue patients to be rapidly assessed for impact.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Inpatients*
  • Morbidity
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology