Originally Published: May 18, 2008 8:12 p.m.
When only 42 percent of patients at Prescott's Yavapai Regional Medical Center West said the area around their room was quiet at night, hospital officials promptly mounted a Yacker Tracker at nurses' stations to monitor noise levels.
The device looks like a traffic stoplight with red, yellow and green lenses. If the Yacker Tracker light switches from green to yellow, nurses know that noise is rising to a level apt to disturb patients.
"Anything over 60 decibels is unacceptable," said Kevin Keighron, YRMC's chief officer.
In examining the hospital's noise levels, officials discovered that simply wheeling a portable X-ray machine down the hall could have the same noise level as a motorcycle, Keighron said.
The hospital learned of its noisy nights from the Hospital Compare website under the sponsorship of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The website has been around for a few years but information comparing patients' experiences at various hospitals across the country was only recently added, along with information about the number of certain elective procedures done in hospitals and what Medicare pays for those procedures.
The new information means that for the first time, consumers have three critical elements - quality, pricing and patient satisfaction - available to them so they can make informed decisions about which hospitals they want to use, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services officials said in a recent press release announcing the new comparison information.
The website information has been a real eye opener for YRMC, too, agreed Keighron and Chief Financial Officer Brian Hoefle.
While both YRMC West and East generally receive higher marks in most categories than other hospitals, they have some areas needing improvement. And in only a few instances do the website's standards rank them as a "top" hospital.
"When we're not above average, then we need to fix it," said Keighron.
The website has prompted several hospital improvement efforts, including better documentation of things they are already doing but might not be getting credit for, Hoefle explained.
For example, on the question of whether hospital staff always told patients what their medicines were for, only 59 percent of YRMC West patients said they were told and 69 percent of YRMC East patients said they were told.
The hospital intends to work on that one.
Asked whether they would give the hospital an overall rating of a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale where 10 was the best, only 66 percent of YRMC West patients would give that hospital the best rating while 81 percent of patients at YRMC East would bestow the best rating.
More concerning to hospital officials is the fact that only 49 percent of heart failure patients at YRMC West said they received discharge instructions when they left the hospital.
"I can't believe that," Keighron said when it was pointed out to him.
To rank as a top hospital in this area, the hospital should have a rating of 96 percent or better, according to website officials.
After talking to hospital staff, Keighron told the Courier that staff does give patients discharge instructions, but it appears it isn't clear to patients that's the information they are getting. He said the hospital would work on clarifying to patients that they are getting discharge instructions.
One area that YRMC excels in is giving patients the correct antibiotics for their surgery. According to the website, hospitals should achieve a 99 percent rating or better to be a top hospital. YRMC East got a 100 percent rating while YRMC West came close with a 97 percent rating. The average rating for all hospitals in the United States and for all reporting hospitals in Arizona was 90 percent.
A second website, Hospital Choice, recently was launched by the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association - a hospital lobbying group - to alert consumers to what hospitals within Arizona charge for the same procedures, among other things. Twenty-one other states have similar websites.
People can choose to view information about one specific hospital or compare information about one hospital with three additional hospitals.
The information for this website comes from the Bureau of Public Health Statistics at the Arizona Department of Health Services.
A quick review of average charges at Prescott's Yavapai Regional Medical Center West and Prescott Valley's Yavapai Regional Medical Center East shows that YRMC's average charges are generally lower than other hospitals in Yavapai County and the state.
YRMC says that, based on the website's figures, its charges are 39.5 percent lower than what hospitals charge in Phoenix and 29.1 percent lower than what hospitals charge in Tucson. Compared to other rural hospitals in Yavapai County, YRMC charges are 16.4 percent lower overall.
For information on the Hospital Compare consumer website, visit www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov. For information on the Hospital Choice website, visit www.azhospitalchoice.org.
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