A new website is available to help people in California compare insurance providers and hospitals, launched by the State of California Office of the Patient Advocate. The site (reportcard.opa.ca.gov) was created in advance of the implementation of healthcare exchanges, to help people navigate the options and make informed decisions on their care and insurance provider.

When I visited the site, it was heartwarming to find that in both the ratings of long-term care facilities and hospitals, the database collected and displayed data and scores on the quality of the facility. Of the nine attributes being tracked for long-term care settings, “environment” was among them. In hospital settings, “physical comfort” was one of seven attributes measured for overall patient experience.

Looking more closely at the aggregate scores for all insurers, each of the markers being tracked for safety and quality of care was in the 90th percentile, with state averages between 96 and 100 percent. This is great news when talking about outcomes—and the move toward pay for performance rather than service. Moving to the patient experience section, most hospitals I looked at averaged in the mid-70th percentile overall. But then for the attribute of “physical comfort,” not a single hospital I reviewed was higher than the low- to mid- 60s, with a state average of 64 percent. How is it that an organization can have such a huge discrepancy between patient safety protocols and quality of the environment?

Even more interesting was the score given to “Would you recommend this hospital?” As a state average, only 74 percent of people would recommend any given hospital. Basically, this means that when it comes to a patient’s total experience, the quality of the environment trumps the quality of the care. Clearly, healthcare institutions need to pay much closer attention to the components of the patient experience and how they can move that needle, because in the long run, that’s the factor impacting overall recommendation scores.

Average may be good enough for some things, like being of average height or weight, but average should never be good enough where it really counts. Would you pick an average doctor to perform your surgery, send your kids to an average school, or select a cellular service that worked 64 percent of the time? Clearly, no. So what are we going to do as a community about raising the bar of excellence when it comes to the environment? What are you going to do? The reality is that it’s in our hands more than anybody else’s. The question to our industry is, Are we as a whole creative enough, are we brave enough, and are we persuasive enough to shine a spotlight on and permanently raise that bar?


Debra Levin, EDAC, is president and CEO of The Center for Health Design. You can follow at Debra @CHD_DebraLevin on Twitter or contact her directly at dlevin@healthdesign.org. For more information on The Center for Health Design, please visit www.healthdesign.org