The US Department of Health and Human Services / Department of Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) provides a website called Hospital Compare that allows potential patients to size up a hospital before they are admitted. Need to know how many heart surgeries are successful at your local hospital? Need to know its mortality rate? The information can be found at www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov.
And now, a new addition to the website will make this website even more valuable to those of us who do our due diligence. I love this!
Patients are asked a series of survey questions as they are discharged. CMS will give the survey to 300 patients per hospital, per calendar quarter. Only short-term, acute care, non-specialty hospitals participate (not specialty or one-day outpatient type hospitals.)
Those questions are these:
- How often did nurses treat you with courtesy and respect?
- How often did nurses listen carefully to you?
- How often did nurses explain things in a way you could understand?
- How often did doctors treat you with courtesy and respect?
- How often did doctors listen carefully to you?
- How often did doctors explain things in a way you could understand?
- After you pressed the call button, how often did you get help as soon as you wanted it?
- How often did you get help in getting to the bathroom or in using a bedpan as soon as you wanted?
- How often was your pain well controlled?
- How often did the hospital staff do everything they could to help you with your pain?
- Before giving you any new medicine, how often did the hospital staff tell you what the medicine was for?
- Before giving you any new medicine, how often did the hospital staff describe possible side effects in a way you could understand?
- How often were your room and bathroom kept clean?
- How often was the area around your room quiet at night?
- Did hospital staff talk with you about whether you would have the help you needed when you left the hospital?
- Did you get information in writing about what symptoms or health problems to look out for after you left the hospital?
- Using any number from 0 to 10 (0 is the worst hospital possible and 10 is the best hospital possible) what number would you use to rate this hospital during your stay?
- Would you recommend this hospital to your family and friends?
CMS then uses the results as a part of its hospital compare program, allowing patients to make determinations about which hospital will tend not just to their surgery and care needs, but how well they are treated by the staff at the hospital.
Why do I love this? Let me count the ways!
There is not a hospital in this country that doesn’t take care of Medicare and Medicaid patients. That means all hospitals in the US will be listed, and the experience patients have had with them will be recorded.
The information will be objective. Since patients are being surveyed randomly at the hospital, as they are being discharged, the rankings won’t be skewed like the rankings and input we typically find online. The online ranking systems haven’t found a good way to be objective yet. Disgruntled patients and doctor’s staffs can skew those results in one direction or another.
And yes — I do see some shortcomings. Two things: First, I think they would do well to survey patients’ loved ones, their caregivers, in addition to the patients themselves. Often its the caregiver who knows far more about how that patient was treated.
And second — there is one very important population not being surveyed at all. That’s the person who doesn’t get discharged. We have to imagine that many patients who acquire MRSA or other infections, for example, aren’t making it out alive. Their opinions are important, too. Perhaps the idea of surveying caregivers would make sure the deceased patient’s opinions are represented to.
Are you facing a hospital stay? Check out the CMS Hospital Compare website. And if your doctor is affiliated with the wrong hospital? Then ask him or her what your options are. You need the complete package, and this is one more tool to help you get it.