Stevens struggles in survey

  • By Sharon Salyer Herald reporter
  • Friday, April 11, 2008 11:09am

Think of it as a consumer report on hospitals, rated by the patients themselves.

How was communication with doctors and nurses? Were the rooms clean? Was it quiet at night? Would they recommend the hospital to someone else?

Through a Washington State Hospital Association Web site, patients can now compare hospitals on these issues, both locally and across the state.

In Snohomish County, Cascade Valley Hospital in Arlington and Providence Everett Medical Center were at or slightly above state and national averages on overall satisfaction.

Stevens Hospital in Edmonds was 13 points below state averages on overall satisfaction and 12 points below the state average on whether patients would recommend the hospital to someone else.

Stevens got its highest scores for doctor-patient communication, one point below the state average, and on a patient’s information about his or her recovery, a category in which the hospital was still nine points below the state average.

“We’re not satisfied with any of those scores,” hospital spokesman Jack Kirkman said. “We believe the community deserves the best and that’s what we’re intending to do here.”

He said he believes the hospital would score better on the next round of satisfaction surveys, expected out this summer.

The hospital is working to exceed state and national averages on patient satisfaction scores, he said.

The patient ratings are based on information gathered by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from October 2006 to June 2007.

The Washington State Hospital Association used the information and posted it on its own Web site to make it easier for consumers to understand the information, spokeswoman Cassie Sauer said.

Providence received its lowest mark for how quiet it was at night, a common problem among Washington hospitals.

That’s partly because about 80 percent of the rooms at the Everett hospital’s Colby Campus are semiprivate, which means “there’s frequently someone in the bed next to them getting care,” said Dr. Lawrence Schecter, chief medical officer.

Most of the 368 beds in the hospital’s new $600 million expansion project will be private rooms, he said, but the building won’t open until 2011.

Although information on medical procedures, from treatments for heart attacks to steps to avoid hospital infections, has been available online, this is the first time that patients’ ratings of the treatment they received have been available, Sauer said.

While consumers may struggle to understand some of the complex information posted on Web sites about medical procedures, “I do think it’s valuable to have that comparison across the board,” said Brenda Rogers, chief nurse executive at Monroe’s Valley General Hospital.

People who don’t have a medical background are likely to judge the quality of their hospital care by the things they can see and understand, she said, such as communication with staff and the cleanliness of rooms.

Valley General Hospital in Monroe is not listed in the patient satisfaction scores because it was in the process of changing survey companies when the information was collected. Its scores are expected to be included in the next update.

Schecter said he isn’t sure how many consumers will look at patient satisfaction scores before choosing a hospital. Even so, consumers may benefit from the information because health insurance plans and hospital staff do, he said.

It’s one measure of where the hospital stands, he said. “It drives all of us to improve.”

Sharon Salyer writes for The Herald of Everett.

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