Despite a low rating by Consumer Reports, Mercy Medical Center Merced claims its patient satisfaction is higher than reported by the magazine.
Consumer Reports compared hospitals across the country in overall patient ratings, in terms of following correct procedures, bloodstream infection rates, approach to chronic care and cost to the patient.
Out of a possible 100 points, Mercy rated only 49 points in its overall patient rating.
"Patient satisfaction is very important to us," said Dr. Robert Streeter, vice president medical affairs at Mercy. "We take surveys very seriously."
Although Mercy was rated with a 49 out of 100 points in patients' overall views of the hospital, the hospital actually did fairly well in most areas that were ranked by Consumer Reports.
Doctor communication was ranked at 93, nurse communication at 92 and pain control at 89.
However, the hospital ranked lower in areas such as communication about medications with a 73, and quietness with a 71.
Consumer Reports compiled statistics from a handful of sources, including patient satisfaction surveys sent to patients by Medicare. The surveys were sent to all ages of patients, not just to Medicare patients.
"We are pretty picky about ratings at Consumer Reports," said Nancy Metcalf, senior program editor for the magazine. "We are not printing things unless we are really convinced they tell something about the quality of the hospital and how well people do at that hospital."
A comparison of Mercy with hospitals in Turlock and Modesto shows Mercy lags in all areas, including the average cost of a hospital stay. Two hospitals in Modesto -- Memorial Medical Center and Doctors Medical Center -- ranked much higher than Mercy in overall patient satisfaction, with Memorial at 78 and Doctors at 71.
Metcalf said a hospital that's consistently ranked low may show that the hospital isn't well organized.
"This is the enemy of good patient care," she said. "Hospitals are busy, complicated places, and good patient care is important."
While Metcalf said online ratings can be used by consumers to compare hospitals, Streeter said patients should look to a source that is usually more knowledgeable about the local hospital.
"I think people should discuss the hospital with their doctors," Streeter said. "Their personal physician is in the best position to gauge if the person can be safely and adequately treated at this facility."
Streeter said he believes the stigma of poor care at Mercy persists because of word of mouth and the fact that the hospital building is old.
"A lot of people's perception of our hospital is largely gleaned from their neighbors and friends," Streeter said. "Plus we still have four-bed wards -- and that's not the ideal kind of care that one could expect."
Mercy conducts its own patient surveys with random chart reviews and sends out surveys to patients of both the emergency room and the hospital. Plus the hospital contracts with an outside agency that also does patient surveys.
"We absolutely use these patient survey results," Streeter said. "We look at areas that need improvement and try to improve them."
Streeter said he believes patient satisfaction will go up when the new hospital opens in May.
"I think these reports are excellent at getting discussions started," Streeter said. "I treat my patients as if they were a member of my family, and we want every patient to feel that way."
Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.