August 19, 2013
There are so many problems that can and do go wrong when a patient goes under the knife. Never events—or medical errors that happen, for instance, when a patient contracts an unnecessary staph infection or when physicians operate on the wrong body part—are happening in hospitals all across the country and their frequency continues to increase. Data also shows that approximately 30% of patients suffer complications after leaving the hospital post-surgery.
Due to these dire statistics, many patients needing surgery or care are left feeling hopeless in the hands of healthcare facilities. Fortunately, many consumer groups have taken action and are helping patients gain control over their medical care.
Most recently, Consumer Reports (a nonprofit consumer protection organization) has formulated a new, one-stop-shop platform entitled "Our Ratings" for patients. The platform allows them to make better, more informed decisions about hospitals before selecting the one that will ultimately provide their care.
Lisa McGiffert, Director of Consumers Union's Safe Patient Project (an initiative to increase public awareness and enhance regulations relating to hospital safety), says that "patients and their families shouldn't have to make such important decisions with so little information."
Understanding the "Our Ratings" system
Essentially, the "Our Ratings" is a database of hospital ratings on more than 4,000 entities located throughout the United States. Hospitals are each given a safety score based on the entity's rate of infection, readmission rates, complications resulting from medical care, and adverse events. The data comes from scientific information gathered from public sources such as the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Consumers can then compare hospitals in their area and select which one they feel the most comfortable with or that best meets their criteria.
However, for patients who do not have a choice in hospitals, the information can still be extremely valuable. If patients are armed with particular knowledge about a healthcare facility, they can take steps to mitigate problems they may potentially face. For instance, patients can remember to ask more questions if they receive care from a hospital that scored low in patient communication.
Goal of the system
The goal of "Our Ratings" is to equip patients with the knowledge that can help them make better healthcare decisions affecting themselves and their families. Together with this information, Consumer Reports hopes that the new, transparent system will also compel hospitals and other healthcare entities to implement better systems and procedures in order to decrease medical errors from occurring.
Consumers can access the "Our Ratings" system to obtain a score on a specific hospital by visiting www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/10/how-we-rate-hospitals/index.htm.
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