How Rhode Island’s Hospitals Stack Up

Few people actually like going to the hospital, but the good news for Rhode Islanders is if you do end up visiting one, you'll likely receive quality care. Information compiled by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and published as part of its Hospital Compare initiative indicate that Rhode Island's 11 acute-care hospitals scored very well compared with their peer institutions nationwide.

"We've performed the same and in some cases, we've outperformed them," said Jean Marie Rocha, vice president of clinical affairs for the Hospital Association of Rhode Island.

In looking at the data gathered, most of Rhode Island's hospitals stand out when it comes to hospital safety and reducing hospital errors, faring well with patient recommendations, proper use of medical imaging and preventing death and readmissions.

Rhode Island Hospitals Recommended by Patients

Among patients who had overnight hospital stays between October 2008 and September 2009, almost 70 percent said they'd recommend Rhode Island hospitals — compared to a 68 percent average nationwide. Certain hospitals fared even better than average, including:

  • Women & Infants hospital, recommended by 85 percent of patients
  • Miriam hospital, recommended by 83 percent of patients
  • South County hospital, recommended by 80 percent of patients

In making recommendations, patients were asked about cleanliness, noise, and communications with hospital staff.

How Much Medical Imaging is "Just Enough"?

Knowing the number of scans or imaging sessions a hospital typically administers is important, because a single CT or "Cat" scan of the chest exposes patients to 350 times more radiation than does an ordinary X-ray, and a single CT scan of the abdomen exposes patients to 11 times more radiation.

Rhode Island's hospitals did well in both categories. Nationally, the average rate for chest scans is 5.4 percent, and for abdominal scans 19.2 percent. Of acute-care facilities, none of the state's hospitals exceeded the national rate for abdominal scans, and only one hospital - Rhode Island Hospital - exceeded the national rate for chest scans, with a slightly higher 6.7 percent. These numbers indicate that Rhode Island hospitals take proper measurers in using medical imaging, but do not unnecessarily put patients at risk.

Preventing Death, Reducing Readmissions and Avoiding Surgical Infections

Results in preventive care were mixed among Rhode Island hospitals. CMS's survey looked closely at infection control (measuring the amount of time an antibiotic was administered before surgery), how quickly EKGs were administered for patients with heart attack symptoms, the mortality rate for RI hospital patients and the rate of readmission for heart failure and pneumonia.

To gauge infection control, the survey measured the percent of patients administered an antibiotic one hour before surgery. The state average was an outstanding 93 percent, with only two hospitals, Kent and Rhode Island, falling just short of the national average of 87 percent.

For patients with heart attack symptoms, CMS advises that patients receive an electrocardiogram test within 10 minutes of arriving at the hospital. While few hospitals throughout the U.S. have actually achieved this recommendation, Rhode Island's average wait was only 14 minutes, compared to the national average of 43 minutes.

As for readmission and death rates due to heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia, 10 Rhode Island hospitals had rates essentially equal to the national average. But one statistic that "bears our scrutiny," said Barry Straube, chief medical officer for CMS was a readmission rate of 46 percent at Memorial Hospital. Readmission indicates that the health problem was not resolved during a prior visit. Memorial's rate was only one percentage point shy of the national average.

Overall, Rhode Island hospitals appear to stack up better than average. But accidents and medical errors can still happen. If you have been injured at a Rhode Island hospital as a result of medical malpractice, talk to an experienced personal injury attorney in your area.