Northern Westchester Is NY's Only Five-Star Hospital

Crain’s Health Pulse
April 17, 2015
Northern Westchester Is NY's Only Five-Star Hospital

Joel Seligman yesterday became the only five-star general among downstate hospitals. Not the military kind, of course: His five stars are from Hospital Compare, making Northern Westchester Hospital the only facility in New York state to earn that top ranking. 

CMS debuted star ratings on Hospital Compare, its public-information website aimed at helping consumers choose a hospital. The stars were awarded for patient-experience ratings at almost 3,500 Medicare-certified acute care hospitals nationally. Among the hospitals that received star ratings, an average of 27.5% of New York patients responded to surveys.

Mr. Seligman, president and chief executive, said Northern Westchester has long had a culture focused on patient-centered care, and is a Planetree hospital.

"We ask patients what they need—we don't assume we know—and rely on patient focus groups," he said.

The Mount Kisco facility focuses on a standardized process for patient satisfaction, whether the focus is food, comfort or empowering patients on their road to recovery. A consistent process for quality is one thing for Toyota, with standard auto parts, rather than a hospital, said Mr. Seligman.

"We have no idea who will walk into the ER in the next hour, and what their needs will be."

Nationally, 101 hospitals received the lowest ranking of one star; 582 received two stars; 1,414 received three stars; 1,205 received four stars; and 251 got five, according to a Modern Healthcare review of the data.

But New York hospitals earned 28 of those 101 single stars—and all but one of the bottom-ranked facilities are in the New York City area. Many are safety-net or public hospitals, including most of HHC's facilities as well as Nassau University Medical Center, Westchester Medical Center and SUNY Downstate. But also among the one-stars are Maimonides, Montefiore Mount Vernon and St. Luke's-Roosevelt.

"HHC has committed itself to making patient experience a top priority, not just in the areas that CMS measures, but in every form of interaction with its patients, and anticipates large improvements in the near future," said a spokesman for HHC, where eight hospitals earned one star. He added that ratings "demonstrate the continuing struggle hospitals throughout the region face in terms of patient satisfaction."

New York City hospitals have long argued that their aging facilities can never make patients as happy as a new suburban hospital with single-bed rooms. Asked to address that urban divide, Mr. Seligman noted that at a 20- or 40-bed hospital in rural America, patients are likely to personally know hospital staff. That is not the case in New York City.

"As a patient, it is hard not to be depersonalized. You're one of 1,000 patients that day. It's just harder, and a matter of size," he said.

Hospital trade groups downplay ratings for such reasons. A spokesman for GNYHA said it will examine "the star rating system closely, as we do with any new hospital 'report card' or ratings system, but we do have initial concerns that a star system oversimplifies the complexity of health care delivery."

GNYHA said the star rating system "should be one of many other factors" considered when choosing a hospital.

Kathy Ciccone, vice president of quality and research initiatives at HANYS, said the group "is very concerned about all these different report-card methodologies. We believe there's a lot of conflicting, contradictory reports." Simplifying complex hospital care to a star, she added, "is inherently difficult."

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