A study released Tuesday measured the quality of care at about 4,500 hospitals nationwide, finding that California ranks among the nation's top four states for high-caliber hospitals.
California hospitals score some of the highest marks in the report, which also says quality varies "significantly" from state to state in key health areas linked to mortality rates.
The HealthGrades report found that 6 percent of California hospitals performed statistically worse than expected for heart attack patients.
Locally, several hospitals received high rankings, but were also cited for problems like bed sores and foreign objects left in patients after surgery.
Scripps Mercy Hospital, UCSD Medical Center, and Pomerado Hospital were among some of the county's top ranking 5-Star hospitals, according to the for-profit provider of information about physicians and hospitals.
During 2005-2011, those hospitals outperformed others when treating patients for four key conditions or life-threatening procedures studied: coronary artery bypass graft, heart attack, pneumonia and sepsis. The four categories combined make up 54 percent of all hospital-related deaths.
Dr. Archelle Georgiou, a former executive for UnitedHealth Group and an expert advisor to Healthgrades, said that if a patient is treated at a 5-Star hospital, he or she has a 75 percent lower chance of death, and a 61 percent lower rate of complications than if that same patient is treated at a 1-Star hospital.
The organization also studied how informed patients are about their hospitals.
"What was surprising to us - and pretty disappointing - was that people spend more time researching the next refrigerator they're going to buy or their mobile phone plan than they spend researching the doctor or hospital that's going to provide care," Georgiou said.
NBC7 also spoke with Dr. Ted Mazer, the chief of staff for Alvarado Hospital - a hospital that is not ranked by Healthgrades. He cautioned that the data is not always accurate, and the same information is provided by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
"The problem with some of these things like HealthGrades and other ratings services is they often use ... we'd call it hearsay or case report data, and it's not necessarily statistically valid," Mazer said.