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Upstate hospitals falling behind in quality, report finds

Jan 1, 2020

New York hospitals lag behind other states when it comes to the quality of care they provide, according to a report from the New York Public Interest Research Group.

Nearly two-thirds of upstate hospitals scored below the national average for patient experience, according to the group’s analysis of data from the federal government. More than half of upstate hospitals also scored below the national average in rates of patients who had to be readmitted after their release, and nearly half were below average in the quality of care they provide.

“New York hospitals provided much worse treatment than U.S. hospitals overall,” the report said.

Credit U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Blair Horner, the group’s executive director, said that even when comparing New York to similar states -- those with large urban centers with high concentrations of poverty -- the Empire State comes out near the bottom.

“Given how much money New York state spends on health care, there really is no excuse for us to be in the caboose category when it comes to hospital quality,” Horner said.

He said that ends up costing the state and the patients more money.

“People that get unnecessarily injured, or who are inadequately treated in their hospital experience, cost more,” said Horner.

In the city of Rochester, only one local hospital scored above the national average on any measure of quality.

Rochester General Hospital, operated by Rochester Regional Health, outperformed the national average on patient mortality.

But University of Rochester Medical Center spokesperson Chip Partner said it would be “a mistake to conclude that hospitals in Rochester and across the state” are not performing well based on this data alone.

The public interest research group used data gathered by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. That data allows comparisons across hospitals and across states, but Partner said it places a low weight on medical charts and patient surveys.

He said that results in assessments that disadvantage hospitals that “treat complex cases and serve high percentages of low-income patients.”

A more accurate view comes from on-site visits by the Joint Commission, Partner said. That commission is a non-governmental organization that offers certification for health care organizations.

The Joint Commission certifies the vast majority of hospitals in New York state and across the country -- every hospital in Rochester is Joint Commission-certified -- but it keeps secret much of the information it uses to make its certification decisions.

The state health department said in an emailed statement that it is still reviewing the public interest research group's report. "Improving quality care is always a top priority," said spokesperson Erin Silk.

The state health department has issued $108,000 in fines to New York hospitals since 2015, Silk said.