What can we learn about the quality of care delivered by our local hospitals? Increasingly, there is public information that explains how well hospitals do in certain areas.
Many of us think we don't have a choice about where to go for hospital care—and in some cases that's true. If it's an emergency, we're going to the nearest hospital. And our doctors are affiliated with particular hospitals. However, you may have more choice than you think—particularly when you are having elective surgery or getting treatment for a condition where you can plan in advance.
Another positive aspect of making information publicly available is that it may motivate hospitals to improve. Organizations don't like to have troubling information in the public domain. And they don't like to be “second best”.
We are lucky to have two hospitals in our area, Anne Arundel Medical Center (AAMC) and Baltimore Washington Medical Center (BWMC). We also could choose from a number of hospitals in Washington DC and Baltimore.
How well do our hospitals do on indicators of quality of care and patient experience? Here are some highlights from a federal website called Hospital Compare:
Deaths and Readmissions: These measures look at death rates and readmission rates (when recently hospitalized patients need to go back into the hospital within 30 days) for patients who have had a heart attack, heart failure or pneumonia. There is some concerning information about our hospitals here. Both are in a small pool of hospitals nationwide that are “Worse than the US National Rate” in some areas:
- AAMC is “Worse than the US National Rate” on death rates for heart failure patients (only 2% of all hospitals nationwide are in this category of poor performance)
- BWMC is “Worse than the US National Rate” on their readmission rates for heart failure and pneumonia patients (only 3% of hospitals are in these categories)
Timely and Effective Care: These measures look at how well hospitals do at providing care that gets the best results in a number of clinical areas. Both AAMC and BWMC do very well on many of these measures with scores in the 96% - 100% range. The one exception is in preventive care where BWMC does substantially better on giving patients influenza (99%) and pneumonia (99%) vaccinations vs. AAMC: 84% on influenza and 85% on pneumonia.
Emergency Room (ER) : These measures look at how long people have to wait in the ER. While many of these results aren't yet available, here are two which show a longer wait time at AAMC:
Average (median) time spent in ER before being admitted to hospital:
AAMC - 637 minutes
BWMC - 387 minutes
Average (median) time spent in ER after being admitted, but before you can get to your room:
AAMC - 396 minutes
BWMC - 185 minutes
Patient Satisfaction: On many of the patient survey questions, the two hospitals are fairly similar (such as nurses and doctors always communicating well, being quiet at night etc.). However, there is a significant difference on this measure favoring AAMC:
Patients who say they would definitely recommend hospital:
AAMC - 82%
BWMC - 68%
Unfortunately, a lot of the measures about our hospitals are “not available” and it's not always clear why the data isn't there.
To learn more about AAMC, BWMC, or hospitals in Washington, Baltimore or other parts of the country, look at Hospital Compare:http://www.medicare.gov/hospitalcompare/search.aspx
To learn about other websites that provide information about the quality of doctors, hospitals and nursing homes, go to the Informed Patient Institute (www.informedpatientinstitute.org).