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Consumer Reports’ Hospital Ratings Highlight Discharge Shortcomings

August 3, 2009
Consumer Reports is now providing patient satisfaction ratings for more than 3,400 US hospitals to subscribers of www.ConsumerReportsHealth.org who will be able to look up their local hospitals to see how they stack up and the types of challenges that patients have experienced there. The ratings are based on patient surveys collected by the federal government’s Hospital Consumer Assessments of Healthcare Providers and Systems Survey (HCAHPS) and carry CR’s familiar ratings. The ratings show substantial differences in quality of care across the US and a clear link between patient satisfaction and intensity of care, with some more satisfied in hospitals that tend to provide conservative care. “Intensity of care is a critical part of the equation for consumers because it has many implications—if you land in a hospital that is aggressive, that will mean frequent diagnostic tests and doctor visits, more reliance on specialists instead of primary care doctors, prolonged hospital stays, more days in the ICU, and higher out-of-pocket expenditures, without necessarily improving outcomes,” said John Santa, MD, MPH, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center. Those actions may potentially lead to an increased risk of complications and hospital acquired infections. Santa said CR’s ratings also point to areas of concern with US hospitals, notably communication about new medications and discharge planning: 3,141 hospitals— 92%—were given the lowest ratings for staff communication about new medications and 2,794 hospitals, or 82%, received the lowest marks for discharge instructions. “Clearly patients aren’t getting enough information about new drugs that are being prescribed for them,” said Santa. “The performance of hospitals when it comes to discharge is truly lackluster. While hospitals work to correct this, patients need to be forewarned so they can do everything in their power to get the right hospital staff working with them on their exit strategy, otherwise their chances of ending up right back in the hospital are increased.”