Consumer Reports magazine released a checkup on hospital safety, saying there's an epidemic of hospital harm nationwide. But Central Vermont Medical Center received the fourth highest score in the country-- a 71 on a 100-point scale.
"We do everything we can to keep our patients away from harm. Certainly the report was a surprise to us, but it was a wonderful surprise," said Alison White of CVMC.
Fletcher Allen Health Care was surprised by the news as well. They received a below average score. If it were a medical exam, they would have failed. But they're not alone, not one U.S. hospital would have gotten better than a C minus. The highest score given out was a 72. CVMC received a 71, Brattleboro Memorial got a 63, Dartmouth-Hitchcock a 54, Rutland Regional Medical Center a 50 and Fletcher Allen a 46.
"We're concerned about how this data was collected; that it's not consistent across all institutions," said Dr. Stephen Leffler, the chief medical officer at FAHC.
The Consumer Reports safety analysis looks at six different categories: infections, readmissions, communication, CT scanning, complications and mortality. The report cites numbers from 2010.
Leffler says Fletcher Allen's score suffers because it's a larger hospital and is more likely to take on higher risk patients than a facility like CVMC.
"I think a major factor is academic medical centers often times take care of sicker patients, so when you look at this data you can't tell if it was what we call risk adjusted," Leffler said.
Fletcher Allen got the same safety score as Mass General in Boston, which was voted the second best hospital in the country according to a 2012 U.S. News and World Report. Vermont Health Commissioner Harry Chen agrees the score from Consumer Reports might not mean much when it comes to comparing hospital quality.
"If Central Vermont has a patient they think they're going to have trouble with, they're going to send them to Fletcher Allen," Dr. Chen said.
The report is filled with disclaimers like "this report only includes data from 18 percent of U.S. hospitals." They got that data from hospitals that volunteered their information. Either way, Chen says hospitals need to develop a new system to ensure patient safety because a 72 shouldn't make anyone feel safe.
"We have challenges in hospitals in terms of creating systems for safe patient environments," Chen said.
Chen says he believes the intent of this study is to improve safety-- something everyone we interviewed agrees needs work. They're just concerned the report has too many holes to be considered valid.
All medical experts encourage patients to ask questions. They say it's best to have someone else listen to your doctor's advice before leaving the hospital and make sure you have a written list of recovery instructions. This should help reduce your likeliness of being re-admitted, an area where Fletcher Allen had a low score.
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