LOS ANGELES—An article written about hospital ratings, in which more than 3,000 hospitals participated, in relation to preventing infections across the United States was recently released. Consumer Reports were responsible for the ratings of these hospitals and Canyon News spoke with Doris Peter, who works for Consumer Reports in the Health Ratings Center.
The interview was conducted to confirm the accuracy of the reports conducted by Consumer Reports and the thought process of using their expertise to rate hospitals. Discussed in the interview was the fact that Consumer Reports was initially created to give feedback on products that are used by consumers, like microwaves, vacuums, among other things. When asked why Consumer Reports decided to research hospitals, Peter responded that it was time for consumers to start being informed about the healthcare they were receiving. She compared healthcare to products because people pay for healthcare, through the use of taxes. “A lot of public money is being used,” said Peter.
According to Peter, Consumer Reports had started to conduct service ratings on hospitals around 5 years ago and each year a different hospital rating is released, but for different criteria. For example, this year, the topic chosen was infections, and the ratings included ways to avoid infections, describing the methods that work, and those that don’t. Hospitals were rated based on their performance in avoiding the spread of infections such as MRSA and C. difficile. Reports also include ratings from central-line associated bloodstream infections, surgical-site infections, and catheter-associated urinary tract infections.
Peter was also asked by Canyon News about the margin of error that can occur when doing ratings of this type of magnitude and the accuracy of the report was called into question. Peter responded that “auditing does occur for states.” Desk audits are done to verify the accuracy of the reports. For example, if the number of patients had grown exponentially within a year, it would be something that would have to be looked into. They also make sure to “validate the data with other data sources.” Due to the fact that hospitals are responsible for reporting the number of infections, there can be errors if the hospitals are not upfront and truthful about their numbers, which is where the auditing and data checking come in play.
Peter said they do run into some problems when it comes to rating hospitals, because a bad rating for a hospital can result in the loss of patients or funding. Peter mentioned that some hospitals would either “own the problem, deny the problem, or act confused with the issue.”
Some strong reasons for why Consumer Reports have decided to rate hospitals have to do with “choice and accountability.” Healthcare providers are expected to be held accountable for their lack of efficiency when it comes to preventing infections inside their own hospitals. It is up to a consumer to decide whether or not they go to a hospital and they cannot make an informed decision without all of the facts laid out before them.