Hospital report card published

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(Host) Want to find out how your local hospital compares to others in Vermont?

Are its charges and quality of care in line with other institutions?

And how do patients rank Vermont hospitals compared to their peers around the country?

The answers can be found in a comprehensive hospital report card just published by the state.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The report cards contain a wealth of information to compare Vermont’s 14 hospitals, from pneumonia care to heart attack treatments.

Jeanne Keller is a health policy analyst who has worked as a citizen advisor for the state on the hospital report cards.

(Keller) “You could go to this report card and find out which hospitals have the best record for implementing infection prevention practices.”

(Dillon) This is the third year the state has required the data. This year, new categories were added on infection rates and staffing levels.

The report cards show that overall Vermont’s hospitals match up fairly well to national standards. But there’s clearly room for improvement. On the rankings for pneumonia care, for example, several Vermont hospitals were below the national average for recommended treatments.

And if consumers use the data to shop around for surgeries, Keller says they’ll find some Vermont hospitals do not follow national guidelines.

(Keller) “Things like carotid endarterectomies, you know high risk surgery where they knock out plaque that’s built up in your carotid artery. It can cause a stroke. You don’t want that done at a hospital that’s doing less than 50 of those a year. And we have hospitals doing fewer than 50 a year, and the national safety threshold is 50. So if I needed to have that done I would have that done at a hospital with very high volume. And you can see that in the report card.”

(Dillon) The Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington stopped offering this procedure because it didn’t have enough volume to achieve the best outcomes.

But North Country Hospital in Newport still performs the operation, even though its surgeon did just 8 in 2005.

North Country President Karen Weller says the hospital decided to keep offering the procedure despite the national recommendation.

(Weller) “In our case, we had a very experienced board-certified general and vascular surgeon who had been doing carotid endarterectomies for 20 years, has never had a complication and given that information there seemed to be little reason for him to stop.”

(Dillon) Paulette Thabault is the commissioner of Banking, Securities and Health Care Administration. She says state regulators did not see any glaring problems in the report card.

She hopes the public uses the data, and that hospitals themselves use information to improve care.

(Thabault) “It’s a really a very great tool for targeting some quality improvement areas within the hospitals.”

(Dillon) Jean Olson of the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems says the institutions are committed to providing the data. But she the work is labor intensive since some of the information has to be pulled directly from patient charts.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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