More Patients Should Look at Hospital Ratings

The Bloomington-Pantagraph published an article last week urging residents to be proactive in their choice of healthcare providers. This is a message with which our Illinois medical malpractice lawyers wholly agree. While it can be confusing to interpret results at first, the more information that patients have when making these choices, the better.

It should be noted that the article begins by mentioning the problems with current rating systems–namely their incompleteness. One Illinois hospital administrator was quoted as saying, “Transparency is a good thing. But transparency is in its infancy.”

Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers understand the concern. Open and honest information and comparisons are critical tools to promote improvement and ensure focus is placed on patient safety. However, there is often a woefully lack of comprehensive (and easily understood) ratings of various standards of care and medical facilities generally. Problems with these rating are good for no one–patients suffer from bad data and hospitals are hurt if they are not fairly represented.

Encouragingly, trend lines are moving in the right direction. As we have explained, two new entrants include the Leapfrog Group–a health benefits purchasing group–and Consumer Reports. Expectedly, those facilities that score poorly on these comparisons attack the comparisons and rating themselves. This is to be expected.

That is not to say that these patient safety rating systems are perfect, but they do offer helpful comparisons which can be quite helpful to consumers. Even many healthcare professionals admit that this information is helpful, and usually best when various different rating systems are consulted before making healthcare choices.

One quality and resource management executive noted that “regardless of the level of sophistication [of each rating system], there is something we can learn from every report.

Like hospital officials, however, our medical malpractice lawyers appreciate that there is a long way to go. Perhaps the biggest challenge is getting accurate reporting from facilities of the various issues–including instances of medical errors and adverse events. Without accurate and comprehensive data to start, the formulations and ranking criteria of various group will have inherent limitations. Any honest discussion about improving these systems must begin with this reality.

Yet, while disagreements remains over the best way to calculate rankings. It is hard not to admit that all ratings may spur important changes at institutions to the benefit of patients. Hospitals need pressure not to glide by in the status quo but to constantly innovate, preen, and change so that fewer mistakes are made and patients fare better in the long-term.

Beyond the new ranking from Leapfrog and Consumer Reports, one of the most well-known ranking systems is the “Hospital Compare” website from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. However, as we’ve previously explained, some note that the ratings from this database are somewhat hard to parse through. With most facilities rated as average, it is difficult for consumers to make actual choices based on the findings.

Still even hospital officials are encouraged noting that “with all of the efforts that are under way, we will see improvement over time. Hospitals already are moving in that direction.”

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Consumer Reports Releases Hospital Safety Ratings

New Hospital Rating System

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