As soon as Axial Exchange published its first “Patient Engagement Index” that rates hospital performance earlier this year, an executive at Rex Hospital in Raleigh sent WRALTechWire an email asking when such ratings would be available on those in North Carolina.

The ratings are out, and Rex is at the top of the list.

In fact, Rex and UNC Hospitals crack the top five. The venture capital-backed tech startup analyzes hospital performance based on a variety of publicly available data, including patient satisfaction. Axial had previously rated hospitals in four other states (Florida, New York, Texas, California).

Axial says it hopes the ratings will “raise awareness” about the need for hospitals to improve communications with patients and as a result produce better health management. 

[WRALTechWire exclusive: Why Axial CEO is trying to improve healthcare.]

Axial, founded by former Red Hat executive  Joanne Rohde in 2009, develops software and solutions related to healthcare. One of its services, which tracks how patient data is shared among health care providers, won the health IT innovation challenge put on by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (or ONC), a part of the Department of Health and Human Services, in 2011.

The Patient Engagement Index measures personal health management, which includes “providing patients with information and tools needed for self care such as patient portals and electronic libraries of health content.” Other measures are customer satisfaction and social media engagement.

“It has been documented that provider organizations that implement robust, multifaceted patient engagement programs are able to decrease readmissions, improve patient satisfaction and reduce the overall cost of care,” Rohde said in announcing the results. “We are excited to announce this index in our home state of North Carolina, in an effort to raise awareness of the importance of patient engagement initiatives to foster improved communication between patients and providers, resulting in better health management. These top ranking hospitals have clearly demonstrated their commitment to patient engagement and we are pleased to publically recognize their efforts towards driving a positive change in healthcare.”

Axial’s ratings rely on a different set of data than the widely recognized US News and World Report hospital rankings, which date back more than 20 years.

“Axial has confirmed the US News rankings don’t include patient satisfaction,” the company says. “Why does it matter what patients think about hospitals? Because patients are consumers. Over the last 15 years, consumers have begun to rely on each other for advice for everything from restaurants and hotels to lawyers and professors. Consumerization in healthcare is driven not only by the transparency brought about by the internet, but also by rising deductibles and a boom in patient engagement. Finally, patient enagement is increasingly at the center of health reform as highlighted by the recently released Patient Engagement Framework from ONC and the eHealth Collaborative.”

Rex received a 75 score, eight points better than second-place Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast. 

How does Rex engage patients? According to Axial,

  • 80 percent of physicians use mobile technology to provide patient care
  • 25 percent of commercially insured patients use health apps
  • 80 percent of patients have looked up health information online

Maximum score is 100.

Carolinas Medical Center-University Charlotte was next at 66 followed by Novant Brunswick Medical Center at 65.

UNC Hospitals tied with Park Ridge Health in Asheville at 63.

Duke Raleigh Hospital received a 55 score.

Duke University Medical Center rated a 54.

WakeMed received a 53.

The lowest rated hospitals were Betsy Johnson Regional Hospital and Northern Hospital of Surry County. Each rated a score of 7.

The complete list can be read online.

When Axial launched the index, Rohde said the information is important to evaluate hospital performance.

“In an Internet era where rising deductibles are driving patients to closely examine health care choices – and where consumers rate physicians online like they do with restaurants and plumbers – we believe that publishing a quantitative measure such as a Patient Engagement Index can spotlight those forward-thinking health care systems that are succeeding in empowering patients to get well – and point the way for others,” Rohde explained.