'Patient hospital ratings accurate'
Patients' hospital ratings are an accurate reflection of how well or poorly hospitals actually perform.
That's according to an independent study that found hospitals with higher patient satisfaction scores have lower death rates and lower readmission rates. Hospitals assessed by patients as being cleaner have lower rates of MRSA infections.
Since 2008, patients in the UK have been able to post comments on and rate hospitals using the NHS Choices website, in the same way that patients in Ireland can record their experience on the Rate My Hospital service on irishhealth.com, which was introduced in 2006.
Advocates of both online rating systems claim that they help patients select the best services, but up until now no research had been conducted to gauge whether these patient ratings are associated with clinical measures of healthcare quality, such as death rates and hospital-acquired infections.
Investigators at the Imperial College London (ICL) examined more than 10,000 ratings of all NHS acute hospital trusts in England submitted on NHS Choices in 2009 and 2010.
They discovered that hospitals with more favourable patient ratings tend to have lower death rates and lower readmission rates. Also, hospitals judged by patients to be cleaner have lower rates of MRSA infections.
"There are a lot of data available to the public on hospital performance, but people rarely use conventional measures and often find them difficult to understand," said study leader Dr Felix Greaves, from the ICL's School of Public Health.
"Our results suggest that NHS Choices ratings may provide useful and relevant information for patients making choices about their care."
The study, which was published recently in Archives of Internal Medicine, found that the top 25% of hospitals rated for cleanliness had a 42% lower rate of MRSA infections than the 25% of hospitals with the poorest cleanliness scores.
The number of patient deaths was 5% lower and readmission rates 11% lower in hospitals in the top 25% rating on NHS Choices, compared to hospitals at the lower end of the league table.
Irishhealth.com's international award-winning facility Rate My Hospital is currently the only online avenue for patients and their relatives to comment openly about their experiences in Ireland's private and public hospitals, good or bad, and rate their performance accordingly.
Nearly 23,000 patients and their relatives have now rated hospitals under a number of service and quality categories on Rate My Hospital.
The latest results place Kilkenny's Aut Even Hospital at the top of the private/public hospital ranking with a 92% approval score, followed by St Luke's Hospital, Rathgar at 91%, and the Bon Secours Hospital in Galway at 90%.
At the bottom end of the league table is Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda (58%), the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, Limerick (59%) and University Hospital, Galway (60%).
In 2009, the HSE introduced HealthStat, a system that gives hospitals one of three 'traffic light' scores depending on how they perform each month according to set targets. These goals including waiting times for operations, waiting times for A&E admissions, use of resources and staffing and levels of absenteeism.
At present, only six hospitals have achieved 'green' status (very good performance), and the remaining 27 hospitals are 'Amber', indicating an average score with room for improvement.
There are no hospitals in the 'red' zone (unsatisfactory, requiring urgent attention). These hospital 'league tables' are based on the HSE's own assessment of their performance under certain criteria.
However, the HSE last year ceased rating hospitals under HealthStat for their outpatient waiting times.
HealthStat also does not include ratings in areas such as hygiene, catering, communication skills of staff and hospital infection, which are included on Rate My Hospital.
The Department of Health's Special Delivery Unit is set to provide details of outpatient waiting times in hospitals later in the spring.
Read Rate My Hospital's latest report on hospital hygiene standards.
[Posted: Wed 15/02/2012]