Friday, August 23, 2013

Providing Some Perpective for the Consumer Reports Hospital Rankings

Consumer Reports recently completed hospital rankings for surgeries, and Fauquier Hospital’s ranking was below average. We at Fauquier Health take patient safety and quality very seriously. We strive to improve on a daily and perpetual basis, and advocate transparency through quality and patient safety data. All patients should have access to these relevant data and use all available tools at their disposal to assist them in making the right health care decisions.

We do feel that the methodology of the Consumer Reports rankings may have been flawed. For instance, the HCAHPS surveys used in their rankings considers data from 2009-2011 – and some data is from 2006-2008. By comparison, the most recent HCAHPS numbers (available on the Hospital Compare website) have Fauquier Hospital consistently at or above national averages.

Points to Consider in Consumer Reports’ Methodology

  • Consumer Reports gave Fauquier Hospital a low ranking for infections; in fact, we have not had a single hospital ICU-based infection since July of 2012. This is a statistic that any hospital would be proud to report. 
  • Consumer Reports used a definition of length of stay not in line with current standards. In fact, our current length of stay statistics – according to the standard CMS definition -- are actually lower than the expected length of stay for the groups studied.
  • Like most other hospitals, in 2012, we started to place an increased focus on preventing readmissions, and our current statistics – according to Hospital Compare -- are in line with state and national averages.
  • The Consumer Reports survey includes only Medicare patients. This is problematic because these patients tend to be sicker than other populations. About 50 percent of our patients are Medicare or Medicaid patients.
  • Consumer Reports used billing data. In our own analysis of patient safety, we use real-time clinical data. Clinical data is more accurate, detailed and current than billing data. The Consumer Reports story even acknowledges the shortcomings of billing rather than clinical data. 
  • Because we are a small hospital, the data tends to be skewed because of the small sample size.
  • The “safety scores” were created by Consumer Reports from several different kinds of data, from different reporting agencies and different time periods.
  • The Consumer Reports explanation of their own methodology includes several disclaimers about the quality of the data and suggests that consumers be cautious about comparing hospitals with different patient populations. However, this is not noted until page 27 of a 44-page “Hospital Ratings Technical Report.”

 At Fauquier Hospital, patient safety is our first priority. Our physicians and staff are constantly assessing and improving our procedures. As Rodger Baker, Fauquier Health CEO, stated in last week’s Fauquier Times’ story, “For the surgery that we do, I’d hold our results up against anybody.”

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