A new McDowell survey has found that residents of the greater Southeast region view Bartlett Regional Hospital more positively than do Juneauites.
The study sought opinions about Bartlett from a cross-section of Juneau residents and people from towns in the area.
"Our primary interest is, we wanted to find out how people felt about Bartlett in general," said Community Relations Director Jim Strader. "Why people might choose other hospitals or services. What’s the interest level in several services we’re contemplating offering."
Eighty-nine percent of those surveyed were either very satisfied or satisfied with care at Bartlett in the past five years. Broken down between Juneau residents and those in other Southeast towns,?36 percent of Juneau residents were very satisfied, whereas other Southeast residents ranked 55 percent.
Respondents also gave opinions on whether Bartlett is getting better or worse. Forty percent said it's about the same, and 38 percent their impression was better or much better. Six percent felt it is worse or much worse.
The survey also looked at perceptions of Bartlett compared to other hospitals in Southeast, and hospitals in the lower-48.
More than half said Bartlett's quality was either better or the same as other Southeast providers, 37 percent said it was better or the same as other providers in the state and 30 percent felt Bartlett is better or the same as hospitals out-state. Thirty-three percent said Bartlett's quality is worse than providers in the Lower-48. Ranking their overall impression with quality at Bartlett on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being best, Juneau residents gave an average of 7.4, while other Southeast respondents gave 7.9.
Strader said he wasn't sure why non-Juneau residents rank Bartlett higher, but the trend also occurs when they survey cruise ship passengers who use their services.
"It's something we're continuously trying to explore," he said.
As far as why the perception that hospitals in the Lower-48 provide better care than Bartlett, Strader said parts of that perception are true. He said the perception is that those facilities are larger, offer more services and offer state-of-the-art treatments.
"In any hospital, we are a small community hospital and there are limits to what we have to offer," he said. "That's one of the reasons we’ve been so cautious in predicting the cardiology area, we want to do it right."
Strader said some of that perception isn't accurate. For example, Bartlett offers the same infusion availability and options as providers in the Lower-48.
Respondents also were asked about their satisfaction with specialized services including cardiac rehabilitation, outpatient or same day surgery, infusion and chemotherapy, lab services and other areas. Ten of 14 categories ranked above 90 percent satisfaction. Hospital stay due to illness, emergency room services, sleep lab and the mental health unit all ranked below 90 percent, but above 79 percent.
"We didn’t see anything that made us panic, but we saw areas that need improvement," Strader said. "Anything that was less than 90 percent we’re going to focus on. We’d always love to have 100 percent."
Thirty-eight percent said their overall impression is better or much better than it was several years ago, while 40 percent said there was no change.
The study found that those who earn lower incomes had better opinions of Bartlett's services and quality.
Bartlett also wanted to know why people chose their services over other providers. Thirty-seven percent said convenience, 30 percent said because of access or transportation and 38 percent said due to a lack of other options. Eleven percent said they chose Bartlett because of quality of staff or care.
The study also looked at the opposite — why people wouldn't choose Bartlett. The top reason (57 percent surveyed) was availability of services, expertise or specialized care, while 11 percent said quality of care or staff.
Looking to the future, Bartlett also wanted to know what additional services people want the hospital to develop.
Cardiology, substance abuse treatment programs for youth and oncology all received "very important" rankings of at least 70 percent. Dermatology fared less important, with only 37 percent of respondents believing it to be very important.
The likelihood of those services being offered or expanded in the near future depends upon the department. After conducting several surveys the hospital has decided not to hire a full time cardiologist, but instead will work more extensively with Virginia Mason and will add more diagnostic capabilities.
Oncology development is further out, but the hospital does have in-house studies going on.
Adolescent substance abuse treatment options will probably be realized first. The hospital is going to start conversations with existing at-risk youth programs. Bartlett's board has mentioned the possibility of a facility.
"That's a community priority as well,"?Strader said.
Five hundred people participated in the telephone survey. Fifty percent of those surveyed were age 55 or older. About 60 percent were female and 74 percent had used Bartlett's services in the last five years (83 percent of Juneauites had).
Strader said that does reflect an aging population and he doesn't believe it's an issue for a baseline survey.
The hospital board will fully review the McDowell report at its next board meeting. Strader said the report will be used as a guideline for improving and maintaining patient satisfaction, and also marketing.
• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at email@example.com.