Posted: Wednesday, August 10, 2016 12:30 am
By BOB MOOS/Contributing writer
Have you wondered how your area hospitals stack up in terms of the quality of care they provide?
Emergencies obviously call for rushing to the nearest hospital. But when you have time to plan, it is worth doing some research and finding out which hospitals do the best job of caring for their patients.
Medicare’s Hospital Compare website — at medicare.gov/hospitalcompare/search.html — has just made it easier for you to check that. The site has added overall star ratings to help you better understand which hospitals are top performers, which are average and which need improvement. The ratings range from one to five stars, with five being the best.
The Hospital Compare site already enjoys a solid reputation with the public, showing how 4,600 hospitals scored on various indicators of quality care. You can compare hospitals on the basis of such factors as clinical outcomes, customer satisfaction and patient safety.
The new overall star ratings offer a snapshot of particular hospitals’ quality of care, by summing up 64 individual measures of hospital performance already posted on the website. The ratings reflect such factors as how often patients get infections after surgery, how long patients must wait in the emergency department before seeing a doctor or nurse, and how likely patients are to get readmitted to the hospital after a heart attack.
The stars take into account the mix of patients at a hospital, so that those facilities with a high percentage of sicker patients aren’t rated lower than those that handle more run-of-the-mill cases.
Medicare assigned stars to 3,662 Medicare-certified hospitals nationwide. Another 937 couldn’t be included, mostly because they didn’t have enough data to properly evaluate them. They may have been too new or too small and, therefore, had too few cases on which to base ratings. The ratings will be updated quarterly on the website, as the government continues to collect the most recent data.
Nationally, 102 hospitals received five stars, 934 rated four stars, 1,770 scored three stars, 723 received two stars, and 133 had just one star.
The 276 rated Texas hospitals scored an average of 3.3 stars for overall quality of care — slightly above the national average. Thirteen hospitals received five stars, 90 rated four stars, 132 scored three stars, and 41 received two stars. No Texas hospital had just one star.
The 13 Texas hospitals that received Medicare’s top rating of five stars were Quail Creek Surgical Hospital in Amarillo, St. David’s Medical Center in Austin, Baylor Medical Center at Uptown in Dallas, North Central Surgical Center in Dallas, Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Southwest Fort Worth, Hill Country Memorial Hospital in Fredericksburg, Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center in Houston, Texas Orthopedic Hospital in Houston, Memorial Hermann Hospital System in Houston, Heart Hospital Baylor Plano, Methodist Stone Oak Hospital in San Antonio, Texas Spine and Joint Hospital in Tyler and Citizens Medical Center in Victoria.
Both Lufkin hospitals, Woodland Heights Medical Center and CHI St. Luke’s Memorial, received a 3-star rating.
Other Texas hospitals’ star ratings can be found at medicare.gov/hospitalcompare/search.html.
Hospital Compare’s new overall star ratings follow last year’s introduction of star ratings that looked only at patient satisfaction.
By adding star ratings to its Compare websites, Medicare is trying to help you make more informed decisions about your health care. The public reporting also gives low-performing providers a compelling incentive to improve their practices and procedures and, hence, their scores.
Nursing Home Compare, Home Health Compare and the Medicare Plan Finder already use star ratings to help you check out health care providers and choose one with quality in mind.
Of course, as informative as these websites can be, they can’t tell the whole story about where to go for care. They’re simply a screening tool that lets you focus on a few providers that interest you.
Visit with your doctor about the best hospital for you. Research shows that some hospitals do better than others at treating certain conditions. And talk to family members and friends about what they liked or disliked about their recent hospital stays and which facilities they’d recommend.
Medicare also recently updated its “Guide to Choosing a Hospital,” which includes a checklist of questions to ask your doctor and explains how to find the hospital that’s the right fit for you. A free copy can be downloaded at medicare.gov or requested by calling Medicare at (800) 633-4227.
Once you’ve done your homework, you’ll have peace of mind knowing you’ve made an informed choice about your care. Then you can concentrate on the rest of your preparations for your hospital stay.
Bob Moos is the Southwest regional public affairs officer for the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. He can be reached at (214) 767-4463.