Consumer Reports gives local hospitals low scores - WRBL

Consumer Reports gives local hospitals low scores

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Consumer Reports rated the surgical care at nearly 2,500 hospitals across the country. The report used Medicare claims and clinical records from 86 kinds of surgery.

Here are the ratings from hospitals in our area: (5=best, 1=worst)

  • Jack Hughston Memorial Hospital (Phenix City): 4
  • East Alabama Medical Center (Opelika): 1
  • Hughston Hospital (Columbus): 4
  • St. Francis Hospital (Columbus): 2
  • The Medical Center (Columbus): 3
  • West Georgia Health (LaGrange): 3

You can find the full report here.

The ratings look at how hospitals nationwide compare in avoiding adverse events in Medicare patients during their hospital stay for surgery. Specifically, the ratings are based on the percentage of a hospital's surgery patients who died in the hospital or stayed longer than expected for their procedure.

The analysis looked at Medicare claims data from 2009 through 2011 for patients undergoing 27 categories of common scheduled surgeries. For each hospital, the results for all procedures are combined into an overall surgery rating.

"We rated hospitals based on the percent of Medicaid patients undergoing surgery who died or was hospitalized longer than expected, which could indicate complications," says Dr. John Santa of Consumer Reports.

St. Francis believes the length of stay aspect is what caused their low ratings.

"Our length of stay is a little longer than normal," says St. Francis' Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bobbi Farber. "Part of it's related to the complexity of the surgery and part is related to the complexity of the patients we have."

St. Francis has received numerous awards for patient care and are in the Georgia Hospitals Association's Elite Circle, which puts them in the 90th-percentile for patient safety in the state. Reports like this come out all the time and there are too many factors to narrow it down to one rating, according to Farber.

"It hasn't really been defined," says Farber. "Everyone makes different definitions with these reports and there's not consistent way of rating hospitals."

Experts say the ratings shouldn't be your only guide when it comes to surgery, but should be used as a resource to give you a good idea of what's out there and what your options are.

"We know the ratings aren't a perfect measurement but we think they're a perfect first step, giving patients the information they need to make an informed choice," says Santa.

The East Alabama Medical Center issued a statement today in regard to the rating:

"Quality is a topic that we take very seriously at EAMC, and we always encourage consumers to make informed decisions with their health care.  Consumer Reports is certainly a respected magazine, but from what we understand, they used length of stay data to predict complications.  We recommend the Hospital Compare web site( because it uses verified surgical complication data from hospitals…our hospital has been recognized nationally numerous times for quality care and service, so we would encourage consumers to use more than one tool when making important healthcare decisions."

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