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Patients Give Hospitals in State Mixed Marks

Ventura County

Survey: Participation was voluntary. Simi Valley facility scores below average, but promises changes.

August 29, 2001|ERIKA HAYASAKI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Patients in California hospitals usually receive needed pain medication, do not experience long waits and are treated with respect and care before surgery, according to the first industrywide survey of the state's hospitals to be released today.

But the survey also found that many hospitals fail to sufficiently educate patients about medication or resuming day-to-day activities after they go home.

The survey marks a turning point for an industry that has until now resisted such public comparisons. Though it may not be entirely representative of care in California hospitals, the survey is the best overall picture for consumers so far, several patients' advocates said.

Almost a third of the hospitals--which house 42% of the licensed beds in the state--responded to the survey conducted by the philanthropic California HealthCare Foundation and the nonprofit California Institute of Health Systems Performance.

"We can't really think of a situation where having no information is better than having some information," said Ann Monroe, a researcher on the survey and director of the California HealthCare Foundation's Quality Initiative. "This is somewhat of an outgrowth of the whole idea of the empowered consumer."

The study is not intended to be a guide to "good" or "bad" hospitals, Monroe said--it was voluntary, and hospitals that participated were willing to confront their strengths and weaknesses.

Of the major medical providers in Southern California, 11 Kaiser Permanente hospitals received average or below-average overall scores from patients, while City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte and Hoag Memorial Hospital-Presbyterian in Newport Beach received above-average marks. Cedars-Sinai and UCLA medical centers were ranked average overall.

Simi Valley to Seek Improvements

In Ventura County, only Simi Valley Hospital took part in the survey. Overall, its patients said their hospital experience was below average.

Patients gave the hospital poor ratings in six areas of care, including coordination, physical comfort and emotional support. The hospital received an average ranking in the area of respect for patient preferences.

Hospital spokeswoman Alicia Gonzales said officials decided to participate in the survey because they "care about what patients think. . . . We see this as an opportunity to make changes."

Within the past year, the hospital has hired a new executive team that is working on a plan to improve services, she said.

"We really feel strongly about the new team and the changes they will make for the better," Gonzales said. "We want the community to know that we are listening, we care and that we are making changes."

Some area hospitals, including Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, chose not to participate because they conduct their own surveys.

"This was great for hospitals who never had any initiatives like this," said Los Robles spokeswoman Kris Carraway-Bowman. "But we already do our own [survey] which we thought was a lot more in-depth. And we do it every quarter."

Carraway-Bowman said her hospital had a 95% patient satisfaction rate in the last in-house survey.

Five out of six Los Angeles County Department of Health Services hospitals chose not to participate in the survey, citing lack of resources.

"Because of the surveys we already do [as required by the federal government], we did not put the resources into this one," said department spokesman John Wallace. "You would be surprised at a system as large as ours, how much effort that would take."

Some Hospitals Unaware of Survey

Hospitals that participated in the survey were required to pay a $1,500 fee per facility.

Several hospitals that did not participate complained that they were unaware of the survey.

"It would be interesting to know how they got the word out, since there was such a low response rate," said Kim Pine, a spokeswoman for UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange County, where only three hospitals responded.

"There are more than 40 hospitals in Orange County," she said. "It's kind of strange."

Statewide, 113 hospitals participated, including 14 in Los Angeles County. Surveys were sent to eligible patients who had spent at least one night in the hospital. Forty-three percent--or 21,151 patients--responded.

"This data is a really good opportunity to have a dialogue between patients and doctors, and for patients to say, 'What are my choices among hospitals?' " Monroe said. "It is part of that mosaic of consumer information that we are trying to provide for people who are making a very serious decision."

While the study is significant, it should not be the only source patients consult before choosing a hospital, said Jan Emerson, spokeswoman for the California HealthCare Foundation.

"This doesn't measure clinical quality, this is more about what they think about the hospital," she said. "It's the beginning of a lot of publicly reported pieces of information on hospital care."

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