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Patients’ ratings of local hospitals available online

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GINA R. HEINE
April 19, 2008

Some patients think Beloit Memorial Hospital could do a better job of keeping the area around their room quiet at night. Other patients at Edgerton Hospital and Health Services think staff could do a better job of controlling their pain.


Those conclusions and others are the result of a new government Web site publishing survey results of former patients on the care they received. New patient satisfaction scores, which recently went online, cover basic premises that just about every hospital patient and their family members can understand.


For example:


? Did doctors treat patients with courtesy and respect?


? How often were the room and bathroom cleaned?


? Was the area around the room quiet?


? Did the patient get immediate help after pressing a call button?


Those questions were included in a survey used to evaluate more than 2,500 hospitals around the country.


The Web site, www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov, lets consumers compare up to three hospitals. The data was collected by hospitals from a random sample of patients from October 2006 to June 2007.


The user-friendly site is another tool for consumers when choosing a hospital, said Karen Cook, a coach with the health care consulting firm Studer Group.


For the first time, consumers can see publicly reported, standardized results from patient surveys for hospitals across the country, she said.


“As patients become more familiar with the Internet and these tools available for them, it’ll definitely impact where patients choose to get their care,” she said.


The site could offer marketing impacts for hospitals that use global statements such as, “We provide the best care in the region,” she said.


“(They’ll have to) make sure they have the numbers to back up what they’re saying,” she said. “This is a real paradigm shift for the health care (industry).”


But patients won’t find survey results from Mercy Health Systems on the site, yet.


Ruth Yarbrough, Mercy’s vice president for quality and patient safety, issued a statement saying Mercy’s survey data soon will be publicly available.


“CMS gave hospitals a choice to make certain survey information available to the public for the first reporting period,” she wrote. “CMS had trouble with its database. Hospitals received CMS’s corrected reports shortly before the deadline CMS set for hospitals to decide whether to make individual reports public. Therefore, Mercy’s data was not made available.”


Medicare spokesman Peter Ashkenaz said CMS did have some issues when it sent the data to hospitals to review.


“But that was corrected in plenty of time … for hospitals to make a decision, so that it should not be the reason why a hospital would make that decision,” he said.


Yarbrough said Mercy received the corrected preview report “very close” to the deadline, “and with the very short review time, we chose not to release the information.”


The site’s next set of data, collected from October 2006 to September 2007, will be published in summer.


Federal officials said they recognize that patients needing emergency care won’t use the comparison Web site, nor should they. However, more than 60 percent of all patients go to a hospital for elective procedures.


The site also will help hospitals focus improvements where patients feel they are most needed, said Rich Umbdenstock, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association.


“Ultimately, this tool benefits everyone,” Umbdenstock said.


Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said consumers—and the Medicare program—pay for care whether it’s good or not. Informing consumers about how well a hospital performs a particular task or how much it charges for a particular service will serve as incentives for health care providers to do better.


“The current sector is all about volume,” Leavitt said. “The future is about value.”


Information from the Associated Press contributed to this article.



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