By CYRUS LEVESQUE
MIDDLEBURY — How good a hospital is Porter Medical Center?
Hospital officials on Sept. 26 will discuss the findings of a state-mandated “report card” that shows how well Porter, along with 12 other Vermont hospitals, performs on a variety of quality, safety and financial measures.
This is the second annual report compiled to meet the requirements of Act 53, a law passed by the Vermont Legislature in 2003 to create greater accountability for hospitals and health care providers.
Porter’s rating was average in most specific areas — it scored a little lower than average for its food but higher than average for safety. Its overall rating for patient satisfaction was close to the national average for hospitals of its size.
Even though this is the second year of the reporting requirements, Porter Vice President for Public Relations Ron Hallman said that no comparison to last year was possible because the state health care regulators redesigned the report.
“The report card format was completely redesigned by the state,” he said. “There’s no way to draw a comparison because you’re looking at either two stars (last year’s rating on a certain question) or the 86th percentile.”
However, Porter Medical Center President James Daily said that the hospital is always trying to improve its service. “I’d like to see us be above average in all of them, and I think we’re actively working to improve our scores,” he said. “As hospitals continue to adjust to what people are measuring, we’re going to continue to see improvement.”
The information in the report cards, which is available at www.portermedical.org/reportcard.html, was gathered in 2005 and evaluated this year by Press Ganey Associates, a company that studies the effectiveness of health care providers.
The overall patient satisfaction rating of a hospital in the survey of 13 Vermont hospitals was taken by averaging the answers to all questions asked of patients who responded to the survey. On overall patient satisfaction Porter got a score of 86.1 out of a possible 100 points. This is below the national average of 86.9 for hospitals of its size but above the national average on 83.9 for all hospitals in the country.
Porter has 25 beds and eight cots for short-term admissions. Out of all Vermont hospitals in the study, Porter was one of only three in the group with fewer than 50 beds. The highest score in Vermont was Grace Cottage Hospital/Otis Healthcare Center in Townshend, with a score of 91.1. Grace Cottage was also in the group of hospitals with fewer than 50 beds. The third hospital in Porter’s class was North Country Hospital in Newport, which had an overall patient satisfaction score of 89.
One part of the patient satisfaction rating was based on the meals. Porter’s score on meals was 77.4, the second-worst in the state after Fletcher Allen Health Care. The average score for hospitals with fewer than 50 beds was 81.7.
On the other hand, Porter scored relatively high on measures of safety. It earned a perfect score on providing aspirin to heart attack patients when they arrived.
Porter’s small size resulted in a low response rate, so the national average for small hospitals is within Porter’s margin of error.
According to Pat Jannene, vice president of patient care services, that response rate created misleading results in certain measures. For example, on one particular part of treatment for heart attack victims, Porter only scored 50 points. However, Jannene explained that most of Porter’s patients suffering from a heart attack get diverted to Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington. The particular service measured in that instance is given at the end of treatment, so Porter’s score for that category was based on only two cases.
Jannene said that in the instances where Porter scored high, it was the result of new systems that make it easier for employees to address problems on their own. “The places where we’ve done really well are because we have really good procedures in place,” she said. “It’s difficult for it to not get done.”
The Tuesday, Sept. 26, meeting to discuss the quality report will be held from 10 a.m. until noon in Conference Room A in Porter Hospital’s Collins Building. The public is invited.