Nearly everyone gave an aspirin to patients coming through the door with a heart attack. Were they sent home with instructions on how to take care of themselves? Not always.

The U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services and the Hospital Quality Alliance unveiled a Web site Wednesday that invites comparisons of hospitals across the country on everything from the cleanliness of bathrooms to the rate of deaths from pneumonia. Thirty-six hospitals in Maine were included and can be compared at www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov.

In a look at nine of those, including the state’s major medical centers and the hospitals in western Maine, all had death rates for pneumonia, heart failure and heart attack within the range of the national average. Those measures were based on Medicare patients who died 30 days after going into the hospital.

“We are not surprised to see that our numbers are in line with the national average,” Dr. Dervilla McCann, medical director of cardiology at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, said through a spokesperson. She said the hospital is striving to be better than average with improvements such as a new emergency room and a new approach to cardiac care.

Measures other than mortality were based on the broad patient population. Information was voluntarily submitted by each hospital, some since 2003.

Nurses got high marks for communicating well, a range of 82 percent at Bridgton Hospital to 74 percent at MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta. Whether areas outside the patients’ rooms were quiet at night got low marks, a range of 59 percent at Bridgton to 43 percent at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.

At St. Mary’s, 89 percent of patients reported that they were sent home with discharge instructions after a heart failure. At Maine Medical Center in Portland, 59 percent reported the same.

Franklin Memorial Hospital President Richard Batt said he believes it is appropriate and useful for the public to be able to make comparisons. He’d like to see more, factoring in up-to-date information and things such as price.

“This doesn’t help much, say, a pregnant woman know which hospital to go to for OB care,” he said. “It’s going to take several years for the (information) to become more trusted, more current and more comprehensive . . . The public needs to understand this is sort of a work in progress.”

One minor caution, he said, is that smaller patient numbers at some hospitals in Maine will have a greater impact on percentages. Also, Batt said something he’s noticed at his own hospital is that it’s not only a matter of following recommended procedures, it’s also making sure to note it on official records.

While nearly all heart attack patients got an aspirin upon arrival, numbers dipped slightly on people getting an aspirin at discharge.

“Some hospitals may give an aspirin to a patient walking out the door, but do they chart it?” Batt asked.



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