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Worcester Ranks #1 Nationally for Health Care Access

Friday, March 16, 2012

 

A recent study conducted by Commonwealth Fund found Worcester is tied with Boston for having the best access to health care across the country.

The study called, Rising to the Challenge: Results from a Scorecard on Local Health Performance, ranked Worcester #21 overall against the other 206 Hospital Referral Regions (HRR), which are areas that represent a regional market for care and does not align with county or state boundaries.

The lead researcher on the study, David Radley, said they measured access of care largely on affordability. Radley, said, “Because the vast majority of Worcester residents have health insurance they were able to afford their care. 93% of adults in Worcester reported no cost-related problem seeing a doctor when they needed to within the past year.”

High marks for prevention and treatment

Worcester ranked #3 in the country for prevention and treatment. Worcester scored quite high in this section of the survey. The report found 96% of surgical patients in Worcester received appropriate care to prevent complications.

Customer service improvements needed

One area of improvement had to deal with customer service at the hospital during a hospital stay. Radley said, “Only 61.2% of patients reported hospital staff always managed pain well, responded when needed help to get to a bathroom or pressed a call button, and explained medicines and side effects.” Worcester ranked on the bottom 20 percent in this area.

Saint Vincent Hospital weighs in

Saint Vincent Hospital spokesman, Dennis Irish said, “This report showed the high quality of health care patients receive at hospitals in Worcester. The experience of the patient in the hospital is paramount. We are striving to improve this area of the hospital all times."

GoLocalWorcester MINDSETTER™ and former President of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Paul Levy, reviewed the report. He said, “That Worcester -- and indeed the whole state -- ranks high on access to healthcare is no surprise. After all, Massachusetts passed a law in 2006 to create universal access to health care. Nonetheless, we should feel some pride in that. There are parts of the country where 20% or more of the public does not have health insurance.

We can't sit on our laurels

Overall the study gave Worcester stunning reviews on the health care it provides patients, but there were some weaknesses. The point of the report is transparency, but also to help the hospitals improve on their weaknesses. 

Levy said, “But we can't sit on our laurels. The survey shows a need for some improvement. For example, Worcester ranked in the lowest 25% of the percent of patients who reported hospital staff always managed pain well, responded when needed help to get to bathroom or pressed call button, and explained medicines and side effects. Simply put, nurses are forced to spend too much of their time away from patients, filling out paperwork and fetching medicines and other supplies. We have great nurses in the region, but hospitals need to improve their work flows to make it easier for them to respond to basic patient needs.”


The Commonwealth Fund Study Overview:
It is the first-ever Scorecard on Local Health System Performance provides U.S. communities with comparative data to assess the performance of their health care systems, establish priorities for improvement, and set achievement targets. It tracks 43 indicators spanning four dimensions of health system performance: access, prevention and treatment, costs and potentially avoidable hospital use, and health outcomes. The findings show clearly that where you live matters for health care access and care experiences. Comparing all 306 local health care areas, known as hospital referral regions, in the United States, the report finds that access, quality, costs, and health outcomes all vary significantly from one local community to another, often with a two- to threefold variation in key indicators between leading and lagging communities. The top-performing areas are concentrated in the Upper Midwest and Northeast. Yet, ample opportunities exist for health system improvement in all communities.

 

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