Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Should We Be Rating Hospitals?

When we go out shopping for appliances or cars, most of us do research. We ask what our friends have, comparison shop, even look for reviews online. If we hire tax accountants, plumbers, or electricians, many of us ask for recommendations from friends or colleagues. But if we get sick, do we pay attention to recommendations? Some of us might, but others may not have the chance. After all, if you're experiencing an emergency, who has the time and forethought to check if the nearest emergency department is well rated?

There are websites that rate doctors and healthcare facilities, just as there are for teachers, for example. But are such sites really valid? We know that people who are unhappy or who aren't satisfied with a product or service are much more likely to speak up than are those who are satisfied. So wouldn't that mean that any type of rating system would weigh more heavily on the dissatisfied side? And don't forget the anonymity of the Internet. The fact that you don't have to identify yourself and you can anonymously post anything about anyone has brought out the worst in some people.

So what is fair?

The Fifth Estate, a program on the CBC, the Canadian national network, recently ran a big story on hospitals in Canada and they developed a Rate My Hospital website. There, you can type in a specific hospital name or you can put in a location and learn about the hospitals around you. The ratings are based on respect, cleanliness, timeliness, communication, and whether you would recommend it. There are also grades regarding mortality after surgery, adverse events, and readmissions.

The first group of criteria is based on subjective feelings and the latter on report, but neither is fool proof. Yet, there are those who say that where there is smoke, there is fire. So if a hospital rates low on the subjective points, there must be a reason.

What do you think? Is such a tool useful? Would you use it?