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405 hospitals get top ranking in new report

Consumer Reports News: September 16, 2011 01:28 PM

The country’s leading hospital accreditation board recently released a list of 405 hospitals that it says scrupulously follow guidelines for treating heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia, children’s asthma, and surgical care. The list, our experts say, is a step in the right direction in terms of making hospitals accountable. But it also has some shortcomings that highlight the problems consumers face when trying to get information about hospital performance.

For one thing, the group—the Joint Commission—didn’t release the names of hospitals that performed poorly or average. Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumer Union’s Safe Patient Project, says:

Consumers need to know not only which hospitals are best but also which ones don’t make the grade.

McGiffert says that publicly reporting the names of under-performing hospitals can motivate them to improve—and that they need to be pushed more than the top performers do.

Notably, all of the top-performing hospitals in the Joint Commission list were relatively small ones, not well-respected medical centers such as the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, the Cleveland Clinic, the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, or the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.

Another short-coming of the list is that “the rankings are based mainly on how well hospitals adhere to guidelines, not how well patients actually fare,” says John Santa, M.D., director of Consumer Reports’ Health Rating Center. “In addition, some of those measures have been around a long time and the hospitals now excel at them with some ease, but they’re not monitoring or measuring other things that matter.”

To make the list, hospitals had to follow established protocols 95 percent of the time or greater, on measures such as the percentage of heart attack survivors who got a drug called a beta blocker when they left the hospital, the percentage of surgery patients who received a preventive antibiotic within an hour of surgery, and the percentage pneumonia patients who got a flu vaccine during their hospital stay.

The group said that hospitals in general performed better in 2010 than in previous years. For instance, on measures of heart attack care, all hospitals reporting quality data provided the recommended care 98 percent of the time versus 87 percent in 2002. Similarly, on measures of caring for children with asthma, they provided recommended care 92 percent of the time, up from 80 percent in 2002.

More data and information on hospital quality assessed by the Joint Commission can be found at

Our hospital Ratings include data on over 4,000 hospitals nationwide and are based on how well they perform in patient outcomes as well as patient experience. Read more about how we rate hospitals.

The Joint Commission’s Top Performers on Key Quality Measures [The Joint Commission]

Steven Findlay

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