Our Views: Hospital scores should comfort Janesville residents

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

While St. Mary's Janesville Hospital deserves applause for strong patient satisfaction scores, the high marks aren't surprising.

After all, the hospital and adjacent Dean Clinic-Janesville East opened just two years ago. Dean's local health care professionals already had a solid reputation. When the new complex opened in January 2012, it was bound to get rave patient reviews.

Liken it to buying a new car. It smells fresh and new. It has the latest technology and other modern amenities and advanced safety features. The consumer might uncover a glitch or two, but the car's good qualities likely will far exceed them.

So St. Mary's Janesville was bound to get good scores, as was Edgerton Hospital, which opened its new facility less than 2˝ years ago. The latest national survey designed to measure hospital patient perspectives reinforces that notion. This is the first time St. Mary's Janesville was part of the survey, and patients said they “definitely” would recommend the east-side hospital. Eighty-six percent said the same about Edgerton Hospital, though officials note those results included fewer than 50 patients, a number perhaps too low for gauging performance.

At Janesville's other option, 68 percent of respondents said they “definitely” would recommend Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center. Though Mercy has been around for decades and faced criticism from some residents who were eager to switch to the new St. Mary's, it's not like Mercy lacks fresh bells and whistles. In the past decade or two, Mercy has constantly upgraded its facilities and worked to improve and expand services.

Though Mercy fell below state averages in most of 10 rated survey categories, its scores were only slightly short of statewide numbers. Besides, residents should appreciate that Wisconsin hospitals perform better than nationwide averages. Mercy's scores trumped national averages in most of those categories.

Here's another key point patients should keep in mind: The survey was based on patient experiences for a one-year period starting in April 2012, and both Janesville hospitals say they've enacted changes to boost future scores.

Laura Walczak, vice president of patient care services at St. Mary's Janesville, acknowledged that patients feeling the excitement of newness carried the hospital in its first year. As she pointed out, however, that feeling only lasts so long. She told The Gazette that the staff analyzed data and patient feedback and made changes. These include ensuring that nurses make hourly rounds, that staffers are being attentive and minding the hospital's values and that they are visible and communicating with patients and fellow staffers.

Mercy has improved in almost all categories since the annual survey started in 2008. Mercy has made all its rooms private to enhance patient experiences. It has added specialists and worked to boost satisfaction and quality scores, Vice President Ruth Yarbrough said. She noted that current scores not yet released give Mercy even higher marks, proving to the staff that it's on the right track.

Yarbrough added that Mercy is proud of its strong quality and efficiency results and urges consumers to visit the Hospital Compare website to get the whole picture.

Regardless of which Janesville hospital they choose, residents should take comfort that both are working to improve their experiences in times of medical need.

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