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Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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Spotsylvania Regional tops rivals in patient-satisfaction survey

In first public comparison, Spotsylvania Regional is clear winner among area hospitals.

The Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center outscored Mary Washington and Stafford hospitals in Medicare’s latest patient-satisfaction survey.

Spotsylvania Regional was the patient-favorite in nine of 10 survey areas. It equaled or exceeded state and national averages in eight of 10 areas. Spotsylvania Regional officials also reported that their hospital was a top-five scorer within the 163-hospital HCA chain. Spotsylvania also bested Fauquier Hospital, a frequent leader in the federal review.

“It’s something we are very proud of,” said Nancy Littlefield, Spotsylvania Regional’s chief nursing officer.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sponsors the national survey and updates it quarterly on its Hospital Compare website. The latest update was posted last week. This is the first time that all three local hospitals have been included in the results. Spotsylvania Regional opened in June 2010.

The survey reflects the experience of 300 recently discharged patients from each hospital. The results covered the period July, 1, 2010, through June 30, 2011. Patients were asked to rate 10 aspects of their stays, from the cleanliness of the bathrooms to the availability of the staff.

“We call it the things that our moms and dads taught us about how to treat people,” Littlefield said.

The survey, now in its fourth year, has forced hospital executives to expand their definition of good care. In the past, administrators focused on providing safe and effective treatments. Now they also must consider the patient’s point of view.

For example, patients at Spotsylvania Regional gave high marks for the way doctors and nurses communicated with them. They also said that they understood what they needed to do during their recoveries at home. Seventy-two percent of the patients rated the hospital a 9 or 10 out of 10. Seventy-seven percent said they would definitely recommend it to a family member or friend.

However, the hospital, along with many other U.S.hospitals, was less successful in other areas:

* More than 30 percent of patients said their pain was not always well controlled.

* Almost 40 percent said they didn’t always get help as soon as they wanted it.

* More than a third reported that the staff did not always explain the medicines they were taking.

Stafford Hospital beat Mary Washington in eight of 1o survey areas, but both Stafford and Mary Washington lagged the state and national averages.

“We knew that we weren’t where we wanted to be, and we’ve been working very hard to try and fix that,” said Eric Fletcher, senior vice president for marketing and communications for Mary Washington Healthcare.

Changes at Mary Washington include the use of whiteboards in patient rooms to convey information, he said.  Also, nurses have moved the change-of-shift briefing to patients’ rooms and included patients in the discussions.

“We’ve taken steps to involve patients more in their care and improve communications,” he said.

Fletcher said that Mary Washington has access to current patient-satisfaction data, and that its scores have improved.

“Our efforts are working,” he said.

Littlefield said that at Spotsylvania Regional the hospital has tried to hire people who have “a spirit of service.”

“We talk about it at orientation. We constantly follow-up,” she said.

She added that good customer service requires constant attention.

“It’s a daily, hourly investment,” she said.

(The Hospital Compare website is here. For a chart with scores from the three local hospitals, see the story in tomorrow’s paper.)