Last Friday afternoon was NaviNet’s 2012 company outing. Our entire team and their families enjoyed a fun-filled day at the New England Aquarium and then a ride aboard the Boston Duck Tour vehicle Miss Emma Science. Among the fun facts we learned from the tour guide was that Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) has just edged out The Johns Hopkins Hospital as the highest-rated hospital in the United States for the first time since 1991, according to U.S. News and World Report. The criteria for the rankings included resources, patient outcomes, and the hospital’s reputation among physicians. This was comforting news, considering MGH is only 0.6 mile away from NaviNet’s headquarters. I can vouch for the respected institution, having been a “loyal customer” since 1999 and having visited nearly every department—having four kids will do that.
This news was all good and reassuring until the good folks at Dodge Communications sent an interesting Time article our way, Why ‘the Best’ Hospitals May Also Be the Most Dangerous, by one of our favorite writers, Shannon Brownlee. According to Consumer Reports, “infections, surgical mistakes, and other medical harm contribute to the deaths of 180,000 hospital patients annually” across the United States. That’s believable. How many of us have called a friend or relative long distance to wish them good luck for a mundane outpatient procedure only to hear they are in the ICU two or three weeks later?
Concerns about patient safety and the validity of the various hospital rankings led Consumer Reports to create its own rating system, scoring 1,159 hospitals on six categories of patient safety: hospital-acquired infections, readmissions, communication about new medications and discharge, overuse of scanning, complications, and mortality. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), state governments, and The Leapfrog Group supplied the data for the ratings. As Brownlee points out, not one of the 17 hospitals on U.S. News and World Report’s Best Hospitals “honor roll” appears on Consumer Reports’ list of the Top Ten Hospitals. Distressingly, Consumer Reports ranks MGH 35th for safety out of 62 Massachusetts hospitals.
What can help close the gap between a top safety score and a mediocre one? Patient communication and technology. If consumers are better educated about their medical choices—where and what medical care they get, as well as costs—they can make more informed decisions about care choices. We believe that the physician has the power to and is best able to influence the patient at the moments of care. If patients ask their most trusted medical advisor—their physician—for a hospital recommendation, can they be certain that the doctor is truly informed about patient safety metrics at a given hospital? Sadly, the answer is not always yes. However, when all partners in a healthcare community share patient quality and safety information, it is more likely that they will be able to make the best decision surrounding care, improving patient safety.
Technology will continue to enable better patient outcomes. As the market adopts new accountable care models, health plans are working to realign incentives with providers for more outcome-focused, value-based care, no matter what the clinical setting. The right technological platform is a critical foundational piece to help deliver the transformation to better patient outcomes at lower costs. Accountable care models like the patient-centered medical home (PCMH) reward practices with lower emergency room visits, hospital admissions, and hospital readmissions—all indicators of better preventive care. Other solutions that are rewarded, like drug prior authorizations, get the right prescription drug into the patient’s hands faster.
Do you have a positive hospital experience to share? Which poll do you consider most relevant? We look forward to hearing from you. Continue the discussion by commenting on our blog, and connecting with us onTwitter,Facebook, and LinkedIn.