Most people have little idea how to choose a hospital. They may base their decisions on convenience or the suggestion of a relative or friend; often, they simply go to the hospital with which their doctor is affiliated. There may be a better way.
California consumers can now compare the recommendations of 35,000 patients who responded to a survey on their overnight stays in the state’s hospitals. This largest-ever survey of patient experience was sponsored by the California HealthCare Foundation and the nonprofit California Institute for Health Systems Performance.
“This is a very, very important study,” said Marsha Nelson of the California Institute for Health Systems Performance. “Now consumers have a lot more information on a lot more hospitals to help them make decisions about where to get care.”
California is the first state to organize a large-scale effort to administer a patient experience survey and make the results publicly available, said Mark Smith, president and chief executive of the California HealthCare Foundation. The survey asked patients to rate their experiences in seven areas, including physical comfort and emotional support.
Participation in the study was optional for every hospital in the state; the 181 hospitals that chose to take part represent 47% of all eligible hospitals in the state. Psychiatric, rehabilitation and long-term-care hospitals were not included. Between 300 and 600 medical, surgical and maternity patients were randomly selected from each hospital.
Patients were asked about the efficiency of hospital staff, how the staff responded to their fears and how well treatments and test results were explained. Patients also were asked if they’d recommend the hospital to family and friends.
“There are a couple of areas where hospitals consistently do well,” said Smith. One is coordination of care, he said, and the other is attention to physical comforts, including pain management.
Smith said two areas in which hospitals don’t do well are in emotional support and in the transition from hospital to home. People don’t know what treatment side effects or danger signs to expect when they go home, he said.
The survey results don’t reveal how well hospitals perform different procedures and can’t tell people how their surgery is likely to go. “It’s not about clinical outcomes or whether patients got better or not,” said Nelson.
The survey results are available by phone at (888) 430-2423 or online at www.calhealth.org.