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A great deal of the decrease in deaths from heart attacks over the past two decades can be attributed to specific medical technologies like stents and drugs that break open arterial blood clots. But a study by health economists at Harvard, M.I.T., Columbia and the University of Chicago showed that heart attack survival gains from patients selecting better hospitals were significant, about half as large as those from breakthrough technologies.

That’s a big improvement for nothing more than driving a bit farther to a higher-quality hospital.

Because more Medicare patients went to higher-quality hospitals for heart attacks between 1996 and 2008, overall chances of survival increased by one percentage point, according to the study. To receive care at a hospital with a one-percentage-point gain in survival rate or a one-percentage-point decrease in readmission rate, a heart attack patient traveled 1.8 or 1.1 miles farther, respectively.

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NYTimes The Upshot

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