Acknowledging the role of patient heterogeneity in hospital outcome reporting: Mortality after acute myocardial infarction in five European countries.
Background Hospital performance, presented as the comparison of average measurements, dismisses that hospital outcomes may vary across types of patients. We aim at drawing out the relevance of accounting for patient heterogeneity when reporting on hospital performance. Methods An observational study on administrative data from virtually all 2009 hospital admissions for Acute Myocardial Infarction (AMI) discharged in Denmark, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden. Hospital performance was proxied using in-hospital risk-adjusted mortality. Multilevel Regression Modelling (MLRM) was used to assess differences in hospital performance, comparing the estimates of random intercept modelling (capturing hospital general contextual effects (GCE)), and random slope modelling (capturing hospital contextual effects for patients with and without congestive heart failure -CHF). The weighted Kappa Index (KI) was used to assess the agreement between performance estimates. Results We analysed 46,875 admissions of AMI, 6,314 with coexistent CHF, discharged from 107 hospitals. The overall in-hospital mortality rate was 5.2%, ranging from 4% in Sweden to 6.9% in Portugal. The MLRM with random slope outperformed the model with only random intercept, highlighting a much higher GCE in CHF patients [VPC = 8.34 (CI95% 4.94 to 13.03) and MOR = 1.69 (CI95% 1.62 to 2.21) vs. VPC = 3.9 (CI95% 2.4 to 5.9), MOR of 1.42 (CI95% 1.31 to 1.54) without CHF]. No agreement was observed between estimates [KI = -0,02 (CI95% -0,08 to 0.04]. Conclusions The different GCE in AMI patients with and without CHF, along with the lack of agreement in estimates, suggests that accounting for patient heterogeneity is required to adequately characterize and report on hospital performance.