Those of us nurse practitioners working in hospitals, or even better hospital systems, have important inside information into our communities. We know the general consensus of which hospitals provide the best care, and even more importantly the reputations of individual providers. Should a friend or family member require surgery we know who not to refer them to for care.

Sadly, like with all other businesses, some hospitals provide better care than others and not all are up to par. Some hospitals are accountable when it comes to using healthcare resources wisely, avoiding unnecessary procedures, preventing hospital acquired infections, and sidestepping surgical complications while others are not.

Recently, performance measures like these have gotten a bad rap among medical providers. With Medicare increasingly basing pay on factors like readmission rates, it’s easy to complain about how flawed these statistics can be. For example, perhaps our patients discharged with pneumonia diagnoses are readmitted because upon leaving the hospital they don’t fill their prescriptions for antibiotics and immediately smoke a full pack of cigarettes. ‘Noncompliance’ is not the fault of the provider, so is it really fair to base pay on these measures?

Statistics aren’t perfect and basing provider’s salaries on performance stats is controversial, but regardless of your opinions on pay for performance getting a general idea of where your hospital falls when it comes to safety standards is a must.

Recently, Consumer Reports took on the task of rating over 2,500 U.S. hospitals. Hospitals were scored on a 1 to 100 scale looking at five measures of patient safety. Safety measures included mortality, readmission rates, patient communication, rates of infection and use of scanning. Based on Consumer Reports’  findings the average safety score of hospitals in the U.S. was a paltry 51 with 43 hospitals scoring below 30. Ranking as the best hospitals in the nation when it comes to safety measures were Miles Memorial Hospital in Damariscotta, Maine with a score of 78 and Lutheran Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio scoring a 75.

Knowing how your hospital ranks when it comes to safety does two things. First, and most importantly, it gives you an idea of where to focus improvement efforts. Recognizing areas of weakness is the first step to bettering safety. Second, it gives you an idea of how your hospital may be perceived in the community. With the push towards healthcare transparency, patients have more information than ever before. Eventually, ratings systems like the one published in Consumer Reports will have an impact on hospital volume on a larger scale.

It can seem impossible as an individual provider to make a difference when it comes to changing the safety profile of your hospital, but you can influence change. Reflecting on your hospital’s scores and improving your approach to care isn’t necessarily important for the public perception of your workplace, but for the real life safety of your patients.

If you are looking for a job as a nurse, NP, or PA, focusing your job search on high scoring hospitals can also be a worthwhile effort. Hospitals with high safety scores are likely to make better work environments. Who doesn’t want to work in a place where quality is a priority?

To find your hospital’s safety score, visit the Consumer Reports website. Does your hospital’s safety score correlate with your personal observations at work?


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