We all want the best for ourselves and our loved ones don’t we? Unfortunately, all too often we fail to get it when it comes to our health care. Fortunately, the Commonwealth Fund has created the website “Why Not the Best?” that allows users to explore a variety of quality indicators for hospitals around the country and compare hospitals to each other and to a variety of national, state, and local benchmarks.
I thought I’d compare the hospital in my hometown of Brunswick, the Southeast Georgia Health System, against the two big hospitals where I live now, Duke University Hospital, and the University of North Carolina Hospital. Now, there are a wide variety of measures available on the website–everything from 30-day mortality rates, readmission rates, reimbursement, and other aspects of clinical quality–but in the interest of space, I decided to focus on one simple measure of quality: Patients’ self-reported satisfaction with the care they received. Granted, this might not be the best indicator of quality–it doesn’t indicate whether evidence-based practices were followed, for example–but it is still a useful measure, because hospitals should strive not only to meet clinical targets, but also to make patients comfortable–and I think satisfaction scores can reflect that. In fact, recent research by Thomas Isaac and colleagues supports a link between patient satisfaction and clinical quality measures.
That said, here’s how the three facilities stack up on the measure of “percent of patients who are highly satisfied”:
- Duke University Hospital – 74 %
- University of North Carolina Hospital – 74 %
- Southeast Georgia Health System – 57 %
Now, where would you rather be admitted if you had a choice?
In fairness, both Duke and UNC are academic medical centers, which differ markedly from a community hospital like SGHS. I don’t mean to trivialize that. Still, the numbers don’t lie. If we are to become better consumers and providers of health care services, this level of transparency is sorely needed–and not just for hospitals.