Naturally, many patients want to compare the safety records of their local hospitals before checking in. But that's still tough to do. "There are no existing data that can allow you to be confident you've picked the safest, highest-quality place to get care," says Chassin, who helped prepare the seminal To Err Is Human report. "One reason is that safety and quality varies even within health systems. Just because they're great in one area doesn't mean that they're great in another."
Katharine Greider is a freelance writer in New York who reports on health and science.