Consumer Reports magazine has long been known for its ratings of cars and televisions. The quality and affordability of health care is also a major issue for consumers and the magazine these days.
The latest issue of Consumer Reports rates medical practice groups based on patient feedback and gives top marks to two Sacramento-area groups, composed of hundreds of primary care doctors and specialists.
Sutter Medical Group and Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, south Sacramento, earn all “4s” in a special “California Doctor Ratings” section of the February issue. Of the approximately 170 practice groups rated statewide, only a handful got such high marks.
“We are just thrilled that our patients are appreciative of the efforts that we’re making to improve their experience when they receive care,” said Christine Griger, a pediatrician and president of Sutter Medical Group.
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She said the ratings are partly a product of Sutter’s enhanced training for doctors on bedside manners.
“We take very seriously the idea that we want patients to feel that their entire experience is of value to them,” Griger said. “It’s not just about the science. It’s about whether people feel the physicians and the staff care about them.”
Other practice groups in the capital region didn’t fare as well in the ratings, including another Sutter practice group, Sutter Independent Physicians, and Hill Physicians Medical Group. Hill got an “overall care rating” of 58 compared to Sutter Medical Group’s 74, the state’s third-highest score.
The lowest-rated practice group in the state was Inland Valleys IPA, serving Southern California’s Inland Empire, with a score of 47. The highest was Sutter Gold Medical Foundation in the San Joaquin Valley, which earned a rating of 77.
Hill vice president Dan Robinson said the data that Consumer Reports relied on in its rankings was from 2013. The company saw that data last year and “reacted to it quickly” by hiring a firm that specializes in improving patient experience “to assist us in better understanding where we might have vulnerabilities,” Robinson said.
“We expect to see stronger satisfaction levels in the next report,” he said.
The Consumer Report ratings were based on data from the California Healthcare Performance Information System, a San Francisco nonprofit collaborative of employers, health care providers and health care plans. The group surveyed more than 52,000 Californians about their experiences with doctors. Patients received questionnaires shortly after office visits.
Consumer Reports used the information to create ratings of the 170 physician groups that provide about 90 percent of treatment in the state to those covered by private insurance plans.
It’s the second year the magazine has rated California practice groups. It also created ratings for a few other states that have similar survey data: Massachusetts, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
“Our goal is to level the playing field – to transfer knowledge from the industry to consumers to make better choices,” said Doris Peter, director of the Health Ratings Center at Consumer Reports in Yonkers, N.Y. “It’s about transparency.”
Questions on the survey included: “How often did your doctor explain things to you in a way that was easy to understand?” and “How often did your doctor seem informed and up-to-date about the care you received from specialists?
The groups get an overall score and are also rated in four areas: communication with patients, timely care and service, coordination of care, and helpfulness of office staff.
“If they’re scoring well across the board, they’ve got it right,” Peter said.
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