Many hospitals and other healthcare facilities are rated periodically on their ability to deliver healthcare services to their communities. While many of these ratings are a good starting point when determining where you should go when you need to use the healthcare system, it is important that you know the facts behind how the ratings were developed. The tips below will help you look more closely at what lies behind the healthcare facility rating systems so you can ensure the facility you choose for your particular procedure or care is the best one for you or your loved one.
Questions You Should Ask About Any Healthcare Rating Study:
How Important is this Rating for What I Need to Have Done?
When you’re trying to decide where you should have a procedure, decide whether the ratings you’re looking at are related to the procedure you need done. For example: A hospital may have been rated well for treating heart attack patients in an emergency department, but that does not mean the same hospital is also rated well for heart valve replacement. Many measures of healthcare quality are narrowly focused on specific diseases or treatments. You can give greater weight to ratings that are closely related to your specific disease or treatment. Also consider how closely linked the measures used in the ratings are to an outcome that is important to you. For example, if you are having surgery and are concerned about choosing a hospital that is successful with preventing infections, ratings based on their surgical site infection rate would be more important than patient satisfaction with the hospital’s staff friendliness. When viewing statistics on hospital or doctor performance on specific procedures, also consider how many of those procedures the individual hospital or doctor has done. There is evidence that the more procedures a doctor performs, the better the patient outcome. You may prefer a doctor who has done 1,000 procedures with five complications to one who has done only 100 procedures with no complications.
How is the Study Funded?
Look into how the rating study was funded. You want to be sure there are no conflicts of interest in regard to the study. Some rating organizations, for example, require a hospital or other provider to pay a fee to obtain a rating and be listed iwth a postive rating on the organization website. Such organizations may not include all similar facilities or providers because not all will choose to participate. You can consider information to be more reliable and less likely to be biased if the funder has no financial or other interest in the outcome of the ratings or participation of the provider.
Where Does the Information Come From? What is the Methodology (Process) Behind the Study?
Data used in hospital ratings can come from many sources, including patient ratings of satisfaction, surveys of hospital officials or doctors and nurses, billing data used in collecting payments, or from review of a sample of medical charts. Data can also be collected or reported by employees of the hospital or by outside researchers. The data sources and who collects the data can both influence the hospital ratings. Give greater weight to ratings that are independent of personal opinions and that are collected by objective researchers.
To look at some healthcare facility studies, go to the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority consumer web page at www.patientsafetyauthority.org and click on “Patient Information” then “Links to Other Consumer Information” or click here. As you scroll down the page there are several healthcare organizations such as the Pennsylvania Healthcare Cost Containment Council (PHC4), that offer comparative studies.