My parents are at an age where hospitals become a part of their life. The travails of being in your 80s include the occasional surgery, hospitalization, and encounter with health care – both in-patient and out-patient.
Seeing them “inside” you can get a feel for a hospital from its staff and the way things seem to run. But it is scary.
My son is working now as a general surgeon, traveling among several hospitals in the community to see his and his partners’ patients. I talk to colleagues and they tell me their opinions.
“I won’t admit there anymore because….”
“The CEO just doesn’t get it.”
“The staff there just don’t care.”
We look for quality. There are lots of quality scores available. You can look at Medicare data for more than 4,000 hospitals across the country. You can do research on “Why Not the Best,” which gathers data on mortality and morbidity for a number of conditions and can present it by hospital, region, state or health system.
If we are lucky enough to have a choice in our community, we rely on our colleagues’ opinions, or where there is someone we know and trust.
But the real question is how well the sites above are used by the average consumer when picking a hospital. The answer to that is rarely.
The question for physicians is where do I want to work, admit my patients, and spend the rest of my career. What questions do we ask? We all know that a hospital can play the game of “Get really good scores on what they measure” and lose focus on all the things that contribute to real quality of care.
I will submit we need a whole new set of questions. I know some hospitals that do well on some of these measures, but the atmosphere and care not measured are sorely in need of improvement.
I submit that we need a set of questions that relate to the working relationship between the physicians and the hospital. I believe in an environment where physicians have input and hospitals listen and give feedback and there is a collaborative, cooperative, dare I say engaged medical staff. That is where you will find the best overall care.
Luckily, we now have a tool that measures just that. We’ve been working on it for a long time. And to prove my assumption is right, we will look at the data after the tool has been used multiple times and see if I am right.
But in the interim, let’s try to get some baselines and see how your hospital measures up. I’m willing to bet you can find the answers to: “There are things that just don’t feel right, but I can’t put my finger on it.” And find there the best answers on how to do it right.
Check it out: www.pactpath.org.