Los Alamos Medical Center Scores Another Four Stars For Patient Satisfaction

LAMC CEO Feliciano Jiron. left, with his staff celebrating high marks from the Joint Commisssion, which reviewed the hospital last week. Courtesy photo

House Supervisor Jennifer DiMarino, RN is one of the many LAMC nurses commended for providing exceptional bedside care. Courtesy photo

Staff Report

Los Alamos Medical Center has once again earned the top spot as the highest-rated hospital in northern New Mexico. It is the outcomeof a nationwide rating system the Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) introduced April 16. The stars are awarded quarterly and LAMC has received four stars three quarters in row.

Los Alamos Medical Center is the only hospital in the region to receive four out of five possible stars in the CMS ratings, which reflect patients’ opinions about their experience while receiving care. No hospital in New Mexico received five stars.

According to a report from National Public Radio, “Many [of the 5-star hospitals] are small specialty hospitals that focus on lucrative elective operations such as spine, heart, or knee surgeries.” The report states that these smaller hospitals tend to fare better in patient reviews than general hospitals, “where a diversity of sicknesses and chaotic emergency rooms make it more likely patients will have a bad experience.”

Many prominent hospitals received two or three star ratings, while comparatively small community hospitals, including Los Alamos Medical Center, and specialty hospitals received high scores. Los Alamos Medical Center (LAMC) received a four star rating. Most New Mexico hospitals were awarded two or three stars.

“We are working toward that fifth star,” LAMC CEO Feliciano Jiron said. “Our staff is committed to consistently meeting and exceeding patient expectations, which is not always easy given the circumstance. Every individual employee at LAMC understands the importance of their role in providing the best patient care possible, and each employee is empowered to meet patient expectations. I am extremely proud of the staff we have built here at LAMC.”

Director of the LAMC Med-Surg unit, Erica Hudson RN, and her clinical staff work hard to understand and exceed patient expectations. “Every day we talk about ways we can make our patients more comfortable while they are here. We offer sleeping masks, white noise machines, and the new Visi system, which enables patients to rest more comfortably at night and allows us to more closely monitor their vitals from the nurse’s station. Patients no longer have loud beeping machines at their bedside, and we are providing better quality care,” Hudson said.

CMS relies on the results of the HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) Survey to determine the number of stars a hospital has earned from their patients. The ratings include almost 3,500 Medicare-certified acute care hospitals.

HCAHPS is a standardized survey instrument and data collection methodology to measure patients’ perspectives of their hospital care. HCAHPS results posted on Hospital Compare provide ratings, including comparisons to state and national averages, that help consumers understand how hospitals perform.

CMS and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality led the partnership of public and private organizations to publicly report patients’ perspectives of hospital care. CMS believes that star ratings spotlight excellence in health care quality and make it easier for consumers to use the information on the Compare websites.

The ratings also support using quality measures as a key driver of health care system improvement.Posting these results support the Obama Administration’s efforts to build a health care system that delivers better care, spends health care dollars more wisely, and results in healthier people. It is consistent with the call for transparent, easily understood and widely available public reporting found in the Affordable Care Act.

The ability to evaluate a hospital is increasingly more important as insurance plans offer patients limited choices. Some in the industry fear Medicare’s five-star scale will place too much weight on patient reviews, which are just one reflection of hospital quality. “We want to expand this to other areas like clinical outcomes and safety over time, but we thought patient experience would be very understandable to consumers so we started there,” Dr. Patrick Conway, Chief Medical Officer for CMS, said in an interview.

For more information, visit: www.medicare.gov and choose hospitals to compare. Click on “survey of patients’ experiences” to see star ratings.