Do Hospital Ratings Matter?

Doctor examining young boyBefore you check into a hospital, it’s always a good idea to check its record for quality and patient safety.   But decoding hospital score cards is no easy trick.  From U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best Hospitals to Truven Health’s Top 100 Hospitals to the Leapfrog Group’s Hospital Safety Score or Consumer Reports’ Health Safety Score and others, they all can be bewildering — even for healthcare insiders and practitioners.

So, it begs the question: Do they matter?

The answer is yes, according to Dr. Angela Shippy, Chief Quality Officer for Memorial Hermann Health System.

“In looking at one of these score cards it allows a patient who doesn’t have any healthcare knowledge to see what’s most important from a quality and patient safety standpoint,” Shippy explained. “So, if you knew absolutely nothing, looking at one of the report cards would allow you to better understand what’s important.”

Anglea Shippy CQO Photo (2)
Dr. Angela Shippy, Chief Quality Officer for Memorial Hermann Health System

Engaged Patients Make Better Healthcare Consumers.

“We’ve asked patients to be more involved in their own care,” Shippy continued. “As a patient, I can become more involved in my own care by formulating and asking the right question based on what I see on a particular report card. For instance, should I ask about infection rates or about performance in a particular measure that I see on that report card?”

Intuitively, most people expect hospitals to be High Reliability Organizations (HRO), much like airlines, nuclear submarines and power plants, where zero error is the rule. No one goes to a hospital expecting harm to happen. The reality, however, is far different from perception.

Consider the revealing data in the Institute of Medicine’s 2000 publication of  “To Err is Human” and continuing to the 2010 U.S. Office of Inspector General report that one in seven Medicare beneficiaries (13.5 percent) suffers a preventable serious adverse event during their hospital stay.

Moreover, the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that nearly 100,000 people die annually in hospitals from medical errors. Of this group, 80,000 die from hospital-acquired infections, many of which can be prevented. Put into perspective, it would take about two hundred 747 airliners crashing annually to equal 100,000 preventable deaths.

Given these grave statistics, should hospitals aspire to be evaluated by HRO standards? Yes, says Shippy, and again underscores why hospital ratings matter.

“Hospital ratings help patients have a conversation not only with their physician and family, but also with the hospital about what’s most important to them as a patient,” Shippy explained. “For instance, if I’m looking at joint procedures and I see what the infection rate is at a particular hospital and I see what the length of stay is, I can say to my family or to the hospital – what’s most important to me is that I get out of here with my joint in place and that I’m walking again. So, understanding the ultimate outcome for the patient can also be gleaned from understanding or looking at one of those report cards.”


What’s Being Done to Make Health Care Safer?

Since 2006, Memorial Hermann has been on a journey to become a HRO. In the process, the system intensified its commitment to quality and patient safety by implementing a zero tolerance policy to help eliminate preventable errors. It also has created and cultivated a culture and environment that promotes patient safety on a daily basis. The system also improved teamwork and communication between doctors and nurses, and engaged patients and their families in the process of their care.

This week, all Memorial Hermann facilities will observe national Patient Safety Awareness Week by engaging employees and medical staff in activities that reinforce the commitment to practice safe patient care.

Commitment to patient safety and quality is important on all levels.  As health care becomes more and more consumer-focused due largely to insurance coverage changes brought on by the Affordable Care Act, hospital safety rankings and satisfaction scores will factor more and more into a patient’s consideration regarding whether to use a particular hospital for surgeries, elective procedures and other treatments.

“Patients should feel confident about our hospitals because it shows that Memorial Hermann is paying attention to important quality and safety parameters that impact their health,” Shippy said. “They should know that we’re holding our staff and physicians to the same standard as the hospitals in achieving those favorable outcomes for the patient. They also show that we’re open to having that dialogue with patients and their families about what matters most to them and impacting their health.”

Shippy added that communicating to patients about their care is essential to receiving meaningful feedback about their interactions with nurses, doctors and hospital staff.

“Hospitals that have high patient satisfaction scores are communicating well with their patients so they can better understand their responsibility in their own health outcome,” said Shippy.  “That’s what patient satisfaction is really all about.”

In a competitive healthcare landscape, ultimately patients will decide the winners and losers. That’s why hospital ratings matter.

To learn more about quality and safety at Memorial Hermann, visit Awards and Recognition

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Tashika Varma