NORFOLK - Medical experts are predicting more and more interest in how hospitals are reviewed and rated.
"It is going to be a significant factor in choosing where you get your healthcare," said Dr. Warren Austin of Bon Secours Maryview Medical Center.
Data about hospital from the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services can be viewed online. While the data on Hospital Compare is about a year old, the federal government says it's working to update the information more frequently.
Using the database, one Hampton Roads hospital had a score below the national rate for some benchmarks. Sentara Norfolk General scores "Worse than U.S. National Rate" in several areas: "Deaths among patients with Serious Treatable Complications after Surgery" and "Serious blood clots after surgery."
Maryview scores "Better than U.S. National Rate" for "Accidental cuts and tears from medical treatment."
Bon Secours DePaul Medical Center shows a higher than expected rate for falls and injuries,according to the database, at 0.682 per 1,000 patient discharges.
Bon Secours spokeswoman Lynne Zultanky explains, "One of the challenges we have in some of our hospitals is helping older adults and often elderly adults recover from an illness or surgical procedure and prevent them from falling."
Zultanky says Bon Secours hospitals are working to prevent falls and injuries by clearly identifying patients at risk for falling, clearly communicating to the patient and the patient’s family member that the patient needs assistance to ambulate and having hourly rounds by nursing teams to check on issues that impact falls, like bathroom needs, change in position (i.e. moving from the bed to a chair in the room, and pain management.
"We do everything possible to prevent any complications in our patients. It starts with having an outstanding medical staff here," said Dr. Austin.
The database shows Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital scores "Worse than U.S. National Rate" for "Serious blood clots after surgery."
Sentara Leigh scores "Better than U.S. National Rate" for "Accidental cuts and tears from medical treatment."
Out of 10 Hampton Roads hospitals, only Sentara Leigh had reports of "Objects Accidentally Left in the Body After Surgery."
“At Sentara, any serious incident triggers an in-depth analysis to determine what happened, why it happened and what's being taken to prevent it from happening again," said Vicky Gray, Sentara Senior Vice President System Development.
That happened twice between July 2009 and June 2011 out of the hospital's 13,251 Medicare discharges.
"In response, every Sentara operating room in the region uses improved surgical protocols and a state-of-the art technology called radio-frequency tagging, in which surgical sponges have tiny electronic tags that can be easily detected before a surgery is complete," Gray added.
Dr. Patrick Conway, chief medical officer at Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, says the data often times shows rare occurances of complications, but he adds that they're still significant in a patient's decision making process.
Dr. Nancy Foster, Vice President for Quality and Patient Safety Policy at the American Hospital Association, says the data can help people make informed decisions before going in for a procedure.
"These data are very complicated and whether or not the measure itself has any relevance to an individual patient is something the patient should have a conversation about with their physician," said Dr. Foster.
"Hospital Compare is an important tool that guides us in providing the best possible care to our patients. A t Sentara, we welcome this guidance and are committed to exceeding all of the national measures set by CMS," stated Gray.
Riverside Hospital believes the data from websites like Hospital Compare should only be used as a factor in the big picture.
"When patients go to this site and then ask us about the data, this is how we respond: If you have any questions or concerns from the data that you have reviewed, you should talk to your physician and discuss how these numbers affect your care for the medical procedure you are going to have. The data is posted as a start for reviewing hospitals. The decision about what to do should be derived by the conversation with your physician," said Riverside spokesman Peter Glagola.