Rating Coachella Valley Hospitals: What Consumers Should Know

Eisenhower Medical Center Terminates Medi-Cal Contact

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Although Eisenhower’s motto for years has been, “Five-Star Treatment for Everyone,” the recent termination of its Medi-Cal contract, in combination with the addition of the new Greg and Stacy Renker Pavilion, leads this author to believe that Eisenhower has shifted its mission and focus to providing five-star medical services primarily for the valley’s economically affluent.

The new Greg and Stacy Renker Pavilion, currently completed but awaiting licensing early this year, features 24-all private suites with five-star amenities for reportedly Eisenhower’s “most discerning patients requiring the finest in patient care.” Although it has not been officially announced to the public, some employees at the hospital have privately disclosed that the new pavilion has been planned and designed for use by Eisenhower’s top donors, philanthropists, and guests when they find themselves in need of medical treatment.

Unfortunately, what’s best for Eisenhower in these difficult economic times may not be what’s best for residents of the Coachella Valley. Those mid-valley Medi-Cal patients, formerly served by Eisenhower, will now be directed to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, or JFK Memorial Hospital in Indio — increasing the already heavy burden placed upon these two hospitals by having to care for even more of the valley’s uninsured and underinsured.

Hospital Quality Ratings — Consumer Caution Advised

This author began researching hospital quality ratings several years ago after experiencing a number of quality care issues at two local hospitals. Quality ratings are prepared by a growing number of for-profit and non-profit organizations that publish lists of top hospitals and rate/rank them on procedures ranging from heart attack care to total hip replacement.

One of the major challenges for consumers is that in spite of the fact that rating organizations work with essentially the same information, results vary – making it difficult for the average consumer to make adequate comparisons. The reason is that every organization uses different criteria for their ratings and rankings.

Then there is the issue of rating credibility. In a November 2008 article, Christian Livermore of the Times Herald-Record reports that some company ratings are labeled “suspect” because they reportedly make money from the ratings. For example, the article reports that HealthGrades, considered in many circles to be one of the leading health care rating companies, rates about 5,000 hospitals nationwide. Although they do not charge to rate the hospitals, HealthGrades reportedly charges up to $155,000 for the hospitals they rate to use their ratings in advertising and promotions. In fact, according to their user agreement, no publication may reproduce, publish, or even cite any data from the HealthGrades Web site without permission.

Dave Jensen, a columnist and 25-year veteran of the biotech/pharmaceutical industry, posted on a November 2008 blog that he purchased an online report from HealthGrades for $12.95 – only to find that, in his opinion, it was a waste of money and that HealthGrades had begun billing his credit card every month (without permission) for “watchdog subscriptions” on the doctor(s) he had checked ratings for. As a result, he placed HealthGrades in the “Sham” category in his blogger’s editorial opinion.

So how should consumers use hospital rating information? Here are some recommendations:

1. Always check more than one source of ratings.

2. View ratings organizations as a starting point for finding a hospital, not as the deciding factor.

3. Talk to health care providers and local hospital staff about what this information means and how it can be used to make health care decisions.

4. Refer to the Hospital Checklist on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Web site at http://www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov/ for a list of questions and considerations when pre-selecting a hospital.

Directory of Hospital Rating Organizations

The following list of medical rating organizations/companies has been compiled merely as a convenience for consumers. The Palm Springs Area Survival Guide is not a referral service, and makes no claims as to the accuracy of the information or ratings provided. Consumers are cautioned to seek additional information from licensed medical professionals before making any decisions regarding medical care or procedures as a result of information on this site or that of any organization/company listed.

http://www.calhospitalcompare.org/ This site includes ratings for clinical care, patient safety, and patient experience for the more than 200 hospitals in California. The site is the result of a partnership between three independent organizations: The California HealthCare Foundation, the University of California at San Francisco Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, and the California Hospitals Assessment and Reporting Taskforce (CHART), a not-for-profit public benefit corporation.

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