"The Ronan Report" provides insight about the activities at the Western Maryland Health System in Cumberland, Maryland, and about the changes taking place in healthcare today from a CEO's perspective.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Consumer Reports and Their Hospital Ratings for Surgery

In the September issue of Consumer Reports (CR), there is an article on Safer Surgery which lists the surgery ratings for 2,463 hospitals across the county.  So, how’d WMHS do?  Was the traditional CR circle, solid red (Good), solid white (Average) or solid black (Worse).  WMHS was solid white or average in our rating.  I guess if it were red, we would be celebrating such recognition like nine Maryland hospitals.  If it were solid black or even half black, we would be vehemently challenging the rating.  But, in our case, like nineteen other Maryland hospitals, we were average.  So, because we were average, I should put the rating in perspective. 
Consumer Reports, using Medicare claims data for 2009 through 2011, grouped the common surgical procedures into 27 different categories.  The ratings were based on two outcomes: death at the hospital after surgery and a longer length of stay in the hospital than expected.  So, what does it all mean to the consumer?
Some of the shortcomings of their ratings would include:
CR used only Medicare data.  There are a lot more patients having surgery; so, they are reporting only a portion of the data.
They say that the data is risk-adjusted; but such methodology is usually flawed.
The complexity of the patient isn’t taken into consideration in this data.
Smaller hospitals have a very limited sample size, resulting in less reliable data for them.
Socioeconomic factors aren’t taken into consideration, which routinely reflect the health of the population.
Today, there is a great deal of transparency in reporting quality and patient safety data, including WMHS, which shows our current quality data on our website.  There are so many measures that hospitals are adhering to today and they are readily available on the internet.  These measures go far beyond surgery performed on Medicare patients.  However, the CR’s article and data are very good starting points. Hospitals and health systems are fast becoming more and more transparent in our performance improvement data reporting and the sole beneficiary of such reporting is the patient.   That’s a very good thing.

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