Feb 10, 2015

If you’re evaluating hospitals based solely on patient satisfaction surveys, you may want to reconsider. A new Johns Hopkins University study (recently highlighted in Kaiser Health News) found little correlation between patient satisfaction scores and quality care.

The study, according to Kaiser Health News, examined patient satisfaction scores at 31 hospitals in 10 states and compared those reviews with information about how consistently medical care providers followed recommended standards of care. The research found that high satisfaction scores could not be used as a predictor of quality surgical care.

While these patient satisfaction surveys (which usually measure customer service issues such as waiting times and bedside manner) can certainly play a part when considering a hospital, there are other factors that are also worth examining. Hospital outcome reports, for example, can serve as a key tool when deciding which facility to visit for treatment. These reports typically detail the number of surgeries performed, infection rates, mortality rates and complications. Evaluating those types of clinical care measurements can provide key information about treatment results.

You also want to be sure that the hospital you choose meets or exceeds national guidelines regarding the treatment of your condition. For instance, antibiotics are needed prior to spine surgery to prevent conditions such as Pulmonary Embolism and Deep Vein Thrombosis. At the Rose Spine Institute (where I serve as co-medical director), antibiotics to protect against these types of blood clots were administered in a timely manner 100 percent of the time. The benchmark is 98.5 percent.

Several media organizations, including U.S. News and World Report and Thomson Reuters, rank hospitals using a variety of criteria, such as death rates, patient safety and hospital reputation. Those rankings are updated annually and are easily accessible online.

Of course, friends and family may also provide valuable insight based on their experience with a specific hospital. The goal is to consider a variety of sources of information when evaluating your options.