When choosing a restaurant or hiring a contractor, people generally trust what they read on Google or Yelp without much of a second thought. But while placing our health or that of family members in a provider’s hands is considerably more important, it can be harder to navigate healthcare quality indicators.
Choice in healthcare is precious, and the decisions we make have a tangible impact. Research has demonstrated a direct correlation between top performance metrics and superior care. For example, a 2017 paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research concluded inpatients admitted to high-scoring hospitals had a 15% reduction in readmission and mortality rates than those admitted to poor performers. More than the prestige of an award-winning hospital, it literally comes down to improving outcomes.
The relative lack of clarity around healthcare scores – how to use them and what they mean for us – is largely because the concept is so new. Physician Avedis Donabedian considered the “father of quality assurance,” only developed his framework of structure, process and outcomes in care delivery in 1966. A combination of academic research, regulatory changes and social shifts, particularly those that reimagined patients as “consumers” in an economy of care delivery, has gradually increased focus on these metrics.
Among measurements of quality, patient satisfaction scores are perhaps the easiest to understand. Much like a restaurant or contractor, people walked away with either positive impressions of their experiences or negative ones, with numerous factors influencing those feelings. In some ways, however, this is precisely the limitation of their use. Satisfaction is subjective to a patient’s memory of a care outcome, and does not indicate the full picture of readmissions, infection rates or falls at a hospital or care facility.
Patients should instead rely on tools that provide a more holistic view of a facility’s commitment to quality. The Leapfrog Group’s Hospital Safety Grade is one example that can guide objective decision-making about facilities based on quality.
Leapfrog’s stringent, peer-reviewed process examines three core areas, including process measures that consider how well a facility’s systems to serve patients work in practice, structural measures that examine the environment in which care is received, and outcome measures that determine whether care received is effective and safe.
The Safety Grade draws on some 27 performance standards from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, its own Hospital Survey and other data sources, and accordingly assigns letter scores from A to F. In Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare’s latest assessment, all five adult hospitals received an “A” grade, with the added recognition of Top Teaching Hospital awarded to our Germantown campus.
The work our staff and leadership have done to make this possible, including innovative quality measures inspired by, but independent of, Leapfrog’s standards, mean the patients who come to our hospitals for care can be confident in more accurate medication and safer care administration.
For the well-being of all patients, it is critical that hospitals nurture robust systems that drive deliberate and effective care processes, with every patient safely receiving the care they need.
Choice in healthcare is most effective for patients when it’s informed. The best care proceeds from facilities that have not only made a verbal commitment to the highest quality and standards, but who make continuous, verifiable efforts to walk the walk on better experiences and outcomes.