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Local hospitals get three stars in national survey / August 17, 2016

VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital (VCU-CMH) scored a middle-of-the-road ranking in a national survey of hospitals released this month by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. VCU-CMH in South Hill and Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital in South Boston had the highest overall ratings among area hospitals in Virginia and North Carolina.

VCU-CMH garnered three stars out of a possible five in its overall rating and in terms of customer satisfaction. In South Boston, Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital also achieved a three-star rating. Two nearby North Carolina hospitals, Maria Parham in Henderson and Granville Health Systems in Oxford, earned two stars in the overall rating but three stars in the customer satisfaction portion of the study.

The “Hospital Compare” study was created by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to help patients make decisions about where to go for hospital care in non-emergency situations, and to encourage hospitals to improve the quality of services they provide.

While area hospitals generally landed in the middle of the pack, Danville Regional Medical System was tagged with a one-star rating.

The most common score is three stars, which 38.5 percent of U.S. hospitals reviewed by the CMS earned. One out of five hospitals nationwide received four stars, and one out of six earned two stars. At the extremes, only 2.2 percent of hospitals attained a five-star rank, and 2.9 percent received a one-star rating.

The rankings were derived from data reported to CMS by nearly 4,600 hospitals throughout the United States that treat Medicare and Medicaid patients. The study measures seven areas of quality: mortality rate, safety of care/complications and rate of infections from certain medical procedures, the rate of unplanned readmissions within 30-days of initial discharge, patient experience, effectiveness of care, timeliness of care, and efficient use of medical imaging.

In the overall rankings, VCU-CMH stood at or above the national average in four of the seven areas measured: mortality, safety of care, effectiveness of care, and timeliness of care. It performed better than most hospitals nationally in both safety and effectiveness of care and had fewer readmissions within 30 days of patients being discharged compared to most hospitals nationally.

The mortality rate measures the number of patients hospitalized for certain conditions who die for various reasons, either during their stay or soon after they are discharged. Hospitals above the national average, according to the study, experienced a lower number of deaths among patients within 30 days of discharge.

VCU-CMH had a mortality rate in line with the national average, according to the survey.

A separate patient experience survey measures 11 additional areas of care or patient satisfaction: nurse communication, doctor communication, responsiveness of hospital staff, pain management, communication about medicines, discharge information, care transition, cleanliness of hospital environment, quietness of hospital environment, general hospital rating (on a scale of 1-10), and willingness of patients to recommend the hospital.

In a key measure of patient satisfaction, the South Hill hospital scored below the state and national average: 62 percent of patients gave VCU-CMH a score of 9 or better on a scale of 0-10, with zero indicating dissatisfaction and a 10 awarded for a most highly satisfying experience. The state average for this measure is 70 percent and the national average is 72 percent.

Among four area hospitals — VCU-CMH, Sentara Halifax Regional, Maria Parham and Granville Health Systems — patients at Granville Health Systems were the most satisfied, according to the survey of patient experiences. Granville patients rated the hospital at or above the state and national averages in 10 categories: nurse and doctor communications, responsiveness of hospital staff, pain management, communication about medicines, discharge information, care transition, quietness of hospital environment, general hospital rating, and willingness of patient to recommend hospital.

The only rating Granville received that fell slightly below the state or national average was for cleanliness of the hospital environment.

In the same survey, patients at VCU-CMH in South Hill said their hospital experience was at or above the state and national average in only four areas: doctor communication, communication about medicines, care transition, and quietness of hospital environment.

In three areas — nurse communication, pain management, and discharge information — VCU-CMH ranked slightly below the state and national averages. In four other areas — cleanliness of hospital environment, timeliness of staff response for help, understanding of care, and willingness of patient to recommend hospital — VCU-CMH ranked further below both state and national averages.

Patients discharged from VCU-CMH gave the hospital mixed reviews, with 86 percent saying the hospital staff spoke to them or gave written information about potential health risks and whether they would need help after their hospital stay, but only 47 percent said they understood the information that was being supplied. The state and national averages in these categories are 88 percent and 87 percent for whether the patient is given information, and 51 percent and 52 percent for understanding the information supplied.

While the area around their rooms was quiet at night, VCU-CMH patients took issue with the cleanliness of their rooms and bathrooms. Only 64 percent said these areas were kept clean, compared to 72 percent in Virginia and 74 percent nationally.

At Sentara Halifax Regional, 68 percent of patients reported that their rooms and bathrooms were always clean.

Full results for the Hospital Compare survey, searchable by zip code, are available online at the website for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services:

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