Sarasota Memorial outshines Blake, Manatee Memorial in satisfaction survey

MANATEE -- When it comes to satisfaction with a hospital experience, Sarasota Memorial Hospital seems to be the area's superstar.

The Sarasota hospital, with more than 800 physicians on its staff, is the only area hospital to earn four stars in a new federal government survey that awards stars based on patients' satisfaction with their hospital experience.

Lakewood Ranch Medical Center and Doctor's Hospital in Sarasota got three stars in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services survey, which is based on a best of five stars, according to the CMS website.

Both Blake Medical Center and Manatee Memorial were rated with two stars by CMS, which randomly surveyed adult patients after they were discharged.

Florida had an average patient score among the lowest in the nation, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis. Nationally, only 7 percent of the hospitals judged earned five stars.

The surveys calculate patient experiences between July 2013 and June 2014 and measure 11 different factors, including how well doctors and nurses communicated, how well patients believed their pain was addressed and whether they would recommend the hospital to others.

"It's great news," Dr. Steve Taylor, chief medical officer of Sarasota Memorial, said Friday of his four-star rating. "We think it shows we are paying attention and focusing on our patients. Our goal now is five stars."

Sarasota Memorial Health Care System is the region's only public, not-for-profit health system and one of the largest public hospitals in the nation, said Kim Savage, a Sarasota Memorial Hospital spokeswoman.

The hospital has 4,000 employees and 800,000 annual patient visits, including inpatient and outpatient, Savage said.

"I think the bottom line is that the hospitals that get four stars don't get it by accident," Taylor said. "They focus on patient needs and satisfaction and are looking at that regularly."

Blake Medical Center plans to take immediate action to improve its two-star performance, officials said.

"I can tell you that rating is certainly not what we would hope it would be," Blake spokeswoman Melissa Morgan said Friday. "There's no way around that. We know we can do better. Our patient experience is important to us. We have to put more focus on it and watch those stars go up as we get better and better."

Another survey by the Joint Commission: Accreditation, Health Care Certification shows that Manatee Memorial is a high-performing hospital, said Kevin DiLallo, Manatee Memorial's chief executive officer.

"I'm not familiar with this Medicare survey," DiLallo said Friday. "We go by the Joint Commission. We have received full accreditation from them and they rewarded us for key quality measures two years in a row."

According to the Joint Survey website, Manatee Memorial was a "top performer on key quality measures" including heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia and surgical care in 2013.

Blake Medical was also awarded "top performer" status in those four categories by the Joint Commission.

But the CMS survey deals with patient experiences and whether they would recommend a hospital.

The Affordable Care Act, which calls for transparent and easily understandable public reporting in the healthcare system, initiated the push for a simplified patient review system.

Evaluating hospitals is becoming increasingly important as more insurance plans offer patients limited choices. Medicare already uses stars to rate nursing homes, dialysis centers and private Medicare Advantage insurance plans. While Medicare publishes more than 100 quality measures about hospitals on its Hospital Compare website, many are hard to decipher, and there is little evidence consumers use the site very much.

The hospitals are also compared against each other, meaning the ratings are based on a curve.

Medicare noted on its Hospital Compare website that "a 1-star rating does not mean that you will receive poor care from a hospital" and that "we suggest that you use the star rating along with other quality information when making decisions about choosing a hospital."

But many in the hospital industry fear Medicare's five-star scale won't accurately reflect quality and may place too much weight on patient reviews, which are just one measurement of hospital quality. Medicare also reports the results of hospital care, such as how many died or got infections during their stay, but those are not yet assigned stars.

"There's a risk of oversimplifying the complexity of quality care or misinterpreting what is important to a particular patient, especially since patients seek care for many different reasons," the American Hospital Association said in a statement.

Sarasota Memorial should be highly rated with its volume of staff and funding from a special tax in Sarasota County, said Dr. Andre Renard, a retired local physician.

"Sarasota has always been high and we expect that," Renard said.

One reason Sarasota Memorial received four stars is because its staff calls patients after they are discharged and goes overboard on attention when they are in the hospital, Taylor said.

"We call them after they leave us and ask if they got their prescriptions filled, if they made an appointment with their primary care doctors and if they were stable and OK," he said. "While they are with us, we don't want to wait until they hit their call buttons. Another thing we do is hand off information on patients from nurse shift to shift like a baton."

-- Material from the Miami Herald was used in this report.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @RichardDymond.