Interpreting Hospital Mortality Data

How Can We Proceed?

Published in: JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association, v. 260, no. 24, Dec. 23, 1988, p. 3625-3628

Posted on on January 01, 1988

by Katherine L. Kahn, Robert H. Brook, David Draper, Emmett B. Keeler, Lisa V. Rubenstein, William H. Rogers, Jacqueline Kosecoff

Read More

Access further information on this document at

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

Data about whether patients live or die following short-term-care hospitalization can serve at least two purposes: (1) to determine if hospital performance has improved or deteriorated over time, and (2) to determine if performance differs across hospitals at one given time. Hospital mortality figures have been used in this manner primarily because such data are readily available, easy to understand, and potentially important to the public. However, if mortality data are to be used for these purposes, they must reflect actual differences in the quality of care, not other factors, such as patient sickness at admission.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.