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John Dempsey Hospital Ranks Last In Consumer Reports List, Says Information Outdated


March 28, 2013

UConn's John Dempsey Hospital is ranked last among teaching hospitals in the U.S. in a recent Consumer Reports article, but hospital officials say the report is based on outdated information.

In its May 2013 issue, Consumer Reports calculated safety scores for 258 teaching hospitals nationwide. Dempsey Hospital received a score of 17 out of 100. The highest-scoring hospital, the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix, Ariz., received a score of 69. The average score was 49.

The safety score was based on readmission rates, patient communication, infections, overall complications, and overuse of computerized tomography (CT) scans.

John Dempsey Hospital received the lowest of a five-point scoring system for conveying drug information to patients as well as overuse of abdominal and chest scanning.

"They were doing what appears to be double scanning, which leads to more exposure to radiation," said Joel Keehn, senior editor of health at Consumer Reports. "There's rarely a good medical reason for it."

The hospital received low scores for most of the rest of the criteria. It's best score, a 3 out of 5, was for communicating to patients about hospital discharge.

St. Mary's Hospital in Waterbury ranked fifth-highest on the list of best teaching hospitals. It scored particularly high in preventing bloodstream infections, patient communications, and avoiding double scanning.

Keehn said most of the data used for the rankings was taken over a year-long period that ended in mid-2012. The information came from various sources, including Medicare and Medicaid, the state Department of Public Health and the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems, also known as H-CAHPS.

In a prepared statement, Dempsey Hospital officials said that the rankings are based on outdated information and that they don't "reflect the fact that the Health Center has substantially improved, across the board, in safety metrics."

"As such,' the statement said, "the report does not accurately portray the quality of care available at the UConn Health Center today."

Chris DeFrancesco, a spokesman for UConn Health Center, said the hospital's rate of double CT scanning of the chest has decreased to "almost zero" for the last year and that double scanning of the abdomen has decreased by 62 percent since July 2012.

The hospital officials also note that Hospital Compare, a survey of hospitals by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, ranks the hospital to be best in the state for a number of criteria, including assessing and providing pneumonia vaccine, ensuring that patients receive timely treatment to prevent blood clots after certain types of surgery, and making sure that all heart attack patients receive aspirin and a statin prescription at discharge.

Mary Cooper, chief quality officer of the Connecticut Hospital Association, said one hospital can get significantly different results in different safety evaluation analyses depending on the criteria used.

"It speaks again to the fact that all of this is not yet a science," she said. Cooper also said that the "random nature of some of these events" can work for or against hospitals at any given time in evaluations. For instance, she said, bloodstream infections happen so infrequently that "an organization may have a cluster of events that on a statistical basis may not have any impact."

The overall Consumer Reports list of more than 2,000 hospitals includes 24 from Connecticut, with Middlesex Hospital in Middletown receiving the highest score, 69, in the state. Nine Connecticut hospitals scored higher than the national average, including Hartford Hospital, St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, and Manchester Memorial Hospital. Both New Haven Hospitals Yale-New Haven Hospital and Hospital of St. Raphael (which have since merged) scored lower than the average with a score of 44 each.

Stuart Markowitx, chief medical officer for Hartford Hospital, said he welcomes anything that increases transparency of hospitals' performance. He cautions, though, that these kinds of rankings tend to only give part of the picture.

"While they're accurate, sometimes they give you only a portion of the story," he said. "We react to the Consumer Reports report by using it to give us a more laser-like focus on the thing we don't do well as well as the things we do do well."

A spokesman for Yale-New Haven and St. Raphael's did not return an email seeking comment, and St. Francis Hospital declined comment.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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