Healthcare News & Insights

What ‘Best Hospitals’ can teach you about quality of care

GettyImages_178633578Healthgrades has released its annual list of the best hospitals in the country, and all hospitals can learn a thing or two about boosting their own quality of care from these outstanding facilities.

According to a news release from the Advisory Board, Healthgrades puts out two lists each year: The 50 Best Hospitals and the 100 Best Hospitals. To be eligible, hospitals must keep track of detailed data on at least 21 of the 32 procedures and conditions that Healthgrades monitors.

Facilities that are ranked highly are given a Distinguished Award of Clinical Excellence, which means they’re one of the top 5% of hospitals in the United States. If a hospital is honored for at least three years in a row, it’s eligible for the 100 Best Hospitals list. Hospitals that meet the criteria for at least six years in a row make the 50 Best Hospitals list.

3 keys for successful treatment

There are many reasons why facilities should strive to meet the performance of these hospitals. In fact, if all hospitals in the country performed at the same level as the 100 Best Hospitals, over 172,000 lives could have been saved. And patients treated at these hospitals have an over 26% lower risk of dying in the hospital than those at other facilities.

In particular, three common elements emerged as part of the treatment process for these hospitals, and they played a big role in contributing to their success.

  1. Vision. Hospitals that succeed at improving patient outcomes anticipate issues and come up with solutions, taking a more active approach to preventing patient harm and improving care. They don’t wait for the feds to evaluate them for meeting certain benchmarks – they take the initiative on their own.
  2. Evidence-based decision making. Top-performing hospitals make decisions based on the data that’s available about certain conditions. And every change they make is tracked, analyzed and evaluated for effectiveness. Changes and adjustments are common, and this helps them achieve the best results.
  3. Collaboration. Improving patient care is a team effort, and the best-performing hospitals realize that from the start. They work to establish better communication among different departments and units in their facilities. And they also extend that focus, forming strong relationships with outside entities like community organizations and first responders. This helps them deliver even better care to patients.

How 2 high-performers did it

Two hospitals that made Healthgrades’ list were profiled in a separate report about the study, and one thing they had in common was the desire to go beyond meeting current core quality measures. Instead, they wanted a system in place to fix problems before they were held accountable for the results.

One top hospital profiled was Mills-Penninsula Medical Center in California. Healthgrades has recognized the facility as a leader in heart-attack prevention. Besides being listed as one of the 50 Best Hospitals for two years in a row, it’s also received a five-star rating for treating heart attacks for three consecutive years.

The facility received such high ratings due to its diligence in recognizing the need to prevent heart attacks early on. One crucial step Mills-Penninsula took was to create better collaboration and trust among not just staff, but first responders. Emergency department physicians respect the medical judgment made by paramedics about patients showing signs of a heart attack. And in turn, cardiologists trust that ED physicians are making the right call in referring patients to them.

Additionally, ED clinicians are also empowered to make certain decisions on their own, such as sending patients to the cath lab before a cardiologist reviews the patient’s EKG. Doing this immediately instead of waiting allows treatment to start faster, which often saves lives.

And to break down even more communication barriers, doctors communicate with each other directly through cell phones, rather than getting messages about patients in critical condition via an answering service.

The other high-performing hospital profiled by Healthgrades was Regions Hospital in Minnesota. Regions Hospital has appeared on the 100 Best Hospitals list for two consecutive years, and it’s received a five-star rating for treating heart failure in patients for four years in a row.

The hospital has been tracking its progress toward improving the care of heart failure patients for more than 10 years, and it’s also made changes in other areas. All physicians are employees of Regions Hospital – there are no contractors. So this makes doctors more engaged in the hospital’s efforts to treat patients.

Data drives the decisions about care for heart failure patients at Regions Hospital. The facility’s had an electronic health records (EHR) system for over a decade, and it uses data about patient outcomes to make adjustments to its heart attack prevention program.

In fact, on a monthly basis, a special committee dedicated solely to heart failure reviews cases where patients died from heart problems. The committee uses information about each patient to develop new, better protocol for care to save other patients’ lives.

Regions Hospital also encourages strong communication between cardiology and the emergency department, putting protocols in place that can help ED pros quickly identify which patients are at high risk for heart failure. The heart attack committee shares best practices for treating patients with cardiac issues with all clinical staff, as well as with hospital executives.

Applying knowledge

Ultimately, all employees at both Mills-Penninsula and Regions Hospital are committed to improving outcomes for patients, and each facility has implemented policies to create a culture where this is a priority. Other hospitals that wish to imitate their success can use their ideas as a starting point for making big changes themselves.

One idea to get the ball rolling: Use EHR data about heart attack patients to look for areas where their care could’ve been improved. Collaborate with your hospital’s cardiologists to see how your hospital’s care measures up against best practices to avoid death from heart failure, and commit to making changes for better outcomes.

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