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Orange County Register (California)

Survey lets patients rate, research hospitals


Ten facilities in O.C. take part in the evaluation and get average scores

by NEIL PARIKH , THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
June 25, 2003

For the first time, consumers statewide have an extensive, scientifically sound way to see how other patients feel their local hospitals rate.

The second year of the Patients' Evaluation of Performance in California (PEP-C) survey asked nearly 35,000 patients from 181 hospitals across the state to evaluate their health-care experience.

The number of participating hospitals is up 64 percent from last year and underscores a trend toward using patient impressions in hospital evaluations. In Orange County, 10 hospitals participated, up from two last year.

The California Healthcare Foundation and California Institute for Health Systems Performance used the responses to create a three-star rating system that consumers can begin using today to compare hospitals by geographic location in a variety of health-care categories.

The survey evaluated seven measures: respect for patient preferences, coordination of care, information and education, physical comfort, emotional support, involvement of family and friends and transition to home.

Orange County hospitals rated average, with only 10 of the county's 27 acute-care hospitals participating. Tenet Healthcare Corp., which owns 10 Orange County hospitals, did not participate in the survey.

Hospital officials said they would use the report to see what changes they need to make. This is exactly what the authors of the hospital report had hoped, said Lisa Simon, acting director of CHF Quality Initiative.

''This is not a report on good and bad hospitals,'' Simon said. "Participating hospitals are getting information they need to make improvements. So even if they get one star in a particular area, consumers can be assured that hospitals know where they need to make improvements.''

Critics discredit the rating system, saying that a range of three stars does not reveal much about the severity of problems in hospitals.

''A simple below-average rating doesn't tell a lot about the problems in hospitals. I don't think you can rate hospitals like fast food,'' said Jamie Court, of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights in Santa Monica.

The report authors said the survey should not be used as the sole tool to evaluate a hospital's performance.

''This survey is an important piece of a much bigger picture involving accountability in health care -- finding ways to reliably measure health-care quality in a way that is meaningful for consumers,'' CHF's president, Dr. Mark Smith, said.

Research-based hospitals, which can overwhelm patients with streams of student physicians, didn't fare as well as smaller centers in this survey.
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Register staff writers Bernard J. Wolfson and Mayrav Saar contributed to this report.
(714) 796-1014 or nparikh@ocregister.com

For more information, see: www.calhospitals.org