Tuesday, September 14, 2004

NorthBay outscores some peers

By Tom Hall/Staff Writer

Fairfield's NorthBay Medical Center scored the highest out of participating Solano County hospitals in an annual California HealthCare Foundation survey measuring patient opinion, while Kaiser Permanente decided to sit the survey out.

The Patients' Evaluation of Performance in California survey, to be released publicly today, rates hospitals in eight categories, ranging from how well the hospital informs and educates patients to the respect shown to patient preferences.

More than half of the state's hospitals participated in PEP-C this year, including NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield, VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville, and Sutter Solano Medical Center in Vallejo.

All three hospitals had a score of two stars, or average, in overall hospital performance. But NorthBay Medical Center, operated by NorthBay Healthcare, did score three stars, or above average, in three areas: information and education, safe medical practices and transition to home.

VacaValley, also operated by NorthBay Healthcare, scored two stars in every category, as did Sutter Solano.

In maternity patient experience, NorthBay Medical Center scored three stars overall, including three-star ratings in information and education, emotional support and safe medical practices. Sutter Solano scored two stars in the overall maternity ratings. VacaValley does not offer maternity services.

All three hospitals scored average ratings in the surgical patient experience ratings.

Sutter Solano spokeswoman Janice Hoss said the hospital is happy with its ratings - which are the same as received by 51 percent of the state's hospitals - but is always looking to improve patient care.

"I think the more we all participate and meet high standards, the better it is for patients," Hoss said. "We will certainly continue to participate in these surveys and we hope others do as well."

The California HealthCare Foundation said that hospital participation in its survey has increased 77 percent since 1999. More than 36,000 patients took part in the eight-week mail survey.

Conspicuous in its absence from the ratings is Kaiser Permanente, which has participated in previous PEP-C surveys.

Meg Walker, a spokeswoman for Kaiser's Northern California region, said that's because Kaiser was selected to participate in a federal pilot survey program - the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health Plans Survey. Walker said H-CAHPS uses a variety of testing measures, including the mail-surveying system used by PEP-C.

Walker said continuing participation in PEP-C, along with H-CAHPS, may have caused several patients to be surveyed twice. Walker said Kaiser also does its own internal surveying.

Across California, the category that received the highest ratings was "respect for patient preferences," while "transition to home" scored the lowest marks statewide.

The complete survey results can be viewed at www.calhospitals.org.

Tom Hall can be reached at dixon@thereporter.com.

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