Whether patients survive in the intensive care unit depends less on the amount of high-tech equipment available than on effective coordination between doctors and nurses, a George Washington University study suggests.

GW researchers looked at 5,030 cases in the ICUs of 13 hospitals -- including those at GW, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland. All the hospitals had similar technical capabilities, but they differed in organization, staffing and commitment to teaching and research.

"Hospitals that had good coordination of staff outperformed hospitals where physicians and nurses frequently disagreed," said Dr. William A. Knaus, director of the ICU research unit at George Washington.

"While some large, high-powered teaching hospitals do perform better in saving lives than non-teaching hospitals," Knaus said, "not all teaching hospitals are created equal. In fact, our study suggests that some teaching hospitals do not do as well as other private non-teaching hospitals."

Mortality rates in the 13 hospital ICUs ranged from 8.9 to 38.3 percent, but some hospitals treated a higher percentage of severely ill patients.

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, did not identify the 13 hospitals by name in the ranking of mortality rates.