The results are in, and hospitals around New York have been evaluated by the Niagara Health Quality Coalition for their 2013 Hospital Report Card.
This 10th annual report offers updated measures that evaluate care at every hospital in the state. Measures include mortality rates, error rates, surgical infection rates, appropriate utilization rates, pain management and overall patient satisfaction with clinical care.
"It's so important to have valid measures in public reporting," said Bruce Boissonnault, president and CEO of the Niagara Health Quality Coalition and senior researcher for the project. "The New York State Hospital Report Card is unique. It tells customers what they need to do to find quality care. All patient records are deidentified before we receive them, and in our report it's easy to tell which hospitals are better or worse.
In the report, the majority of statistics are based on a rating system of one star, two stars or three stars.
One star means that a hospital performed worse than the state average, two stars means that a hospital is at the standard of care and three stars means a hospital is doing significantly better than the state average in a given category, statistically.
According to Boissonnault, the information contained in the report card is computed at a 95 percent confidence interval, meaning that researchers are 95 percent sure when they say a hospital is better than average, it's not just due to random chance.
The report card reported collective gains for 230 hospitals in most patient-safety categories, and even saw statewide surgical mortality rates improve by roughly 50 percent. Boissonault noted that deaths from aneurysm repairs, for example, declined from 8.5 percent in 2002 to 2.6 percent in 2011. Other procedures including heart bypass grafts, craniotomies, heart attacks, acute strokes and pneumonia also saw mortality rates drop by varying degrees.
Boissonault cited two main factors for the decline in death rates: required reporting of outcomes, which has pressured individual hospitals to improve results, and ongoing advances in health care.
There are three lists the report card also produces - "Top Hospitals," "Honor Roll" and the "Watch List." The Top Hospitals list is an evaluation of the hospitals with proportionately the most three-star ratings. It is dependent, however, on the number of metrics that NHQC is able to measure for the report card.
"If a hospital only does five things we can measure and they get one three star, it'll count for more than a hospital that does 10 or 15 things we can measure," Boissonnault said.
Similarly, any hospitals that receive too many one-star ratings are placed on the Watch List.
Boissonnault maintains that the reporting contained in the research is unbiased, saying that when a consumer group, such as NHQC is forced to get permission from the industry before evaluating something, it doesn't work out in the best interests of consumers.
"The joke in some circles is, 'Oh, there's a new consumer group, I wonder which firm is funding them,'" Boissonnault said. "You don't want to wait for permission from the industry to get honest evaluations about the industry. It didn't work for banking, and it won't work for health care."
The reliability of the information in the Hospital Report Card is something that many companies around the state have flocked to. In some cases, the website has seen as many as 3,000,000 hits in a single day.
"When it comes to the info provided, people know this isn't being funded by industry," said Randall Wolken, president of the Manufactures Association of Central New York. "The consistency over the last decade has made it a very reliable tool. I think employers appreciate the quality and consistency that goes into this. They fully understand how this can help them, and people go here because they know it works."
Linda Joseph, NHQC's Consumer Committee Chairwoman and a consumer advocate, has been a strong supporter of the Hospital Report Card project for years.
"I've been troubled by recent general statements that I don't think take into account the Hospital Report Card, which indicate that these reports aren't valuable to consumers," Joseph said. "It's hard to be a consumer watchdog if the health care industry can put you out of business if they don't like what you say, which is why I think this is a valuable resource and we're lucky to have it."
The coalition has posted individual hospital results online, showing a variety of categories including rare events such as accidental punctures or lacerations of patients or deaths among surgical inpatients who developed treatable conditions. The data was culled from 2.5 million patient records that were risk adjusted for each patient depending on the severity of their illness.
For the full results of the Niagara Healthy Quality Coalition's 2013 New York State Hospital Report Card, visit www.myhealthfinder.com.