'Top Cities for Hospital Care' lists Knoxville at 20th

8:28 AM, Jan 24, 2012   |    comments
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By Tom Wilemon, The Tennessean

Nashville, which bills itself as the nation's health-care industry capital, could not crack into the 50 "Top Cities for Hospital Care," but three other Tennessee metropolitan areas did.

Chattanooga ranked seventh, Knoxville placed 20th and the Tri-Cities came in at number 34 on a list released today by Health Grades Inc. The comparison is based on mortality and complication rates among Medicare patients. Health Grades recognized hospitals that achieved clinical excellence, then compared cities according to the percentage of their hospitals that made the mark.

Only one Nashville hospital - Saint Thomas - received the quality citation.

The company, which lets consumers rate medical providers on its website, www.healthgrades.com, looked at the 26 most common diagnoses and procedures for Medicare patients, ranging from bowel obstruction to knee replacement.

"This is about 40 million records," said Kristin Reed, the Health Grades executive who authored the report. "It is every Medicare hospitalization from 2008 to 2010 for those 26 diagnoses and procedures. Those are the highest volume conditions for Medicare patients."

Health Grades has evaluated hospitals for more than a decade, but last year it began using the citations to compare cities. Nashville didn't make that list either. Memphis ranked 45th then but slipped out of the top 50 list this year.

Health-care executives in Nashville are committed to improving quality outcomes at their hospitals, said Sophie Moore, director of communications for the Nashville Health Care Council, an association of more than 200 members.

"As part of our mission to further establish Nashville's position as the nation's health-care industry capital, the council works to connect our members to the top experts, policymakers and thought leaders from across the country at events throughout the year," Moore said. "Our members have a strong commitment to operating high-quality facilities as evidenced by their interest in the topics featured, including health reform and health IT that both relate specifically to in-facility quality."

Chattanooga moved up from ninth position to the seventh spot. Knoxville did not make last year's list.

Baltimore tops list

Hospitals in and near Tennessee recognized for distinguished clinical excellence include Memorial Healthcare System and Hamilton Medical Center (Chattanooga area), Blount Memorial Hospital and Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge (Knoxville area), Saint Thomas Hospital (Nashville area), and Indian Path Medical Center (Tri-Cities area.)

Only markets with four or more hospitals were evaluated.

"I'm delighted that we have hospitals in Tennessee continuing to be added to the list and to show improvement," said Chris Clarke, a senior vice president with the Tennessee Hospital Association. "We're always delighted when any part of our state shows up as a good place to get care."

The best city for hospital care, per the ranking, is Baltimore, where nine hospitals - 47 percent within that market - got quality citations.

Hospitals in Tennessee have worked closely together to improve quality of care outcomes since 2007 when the THA established the Tennessee Center for Patient Safety. Since then, hospitals have reduced central line-associated bloodstream infections and are working on other fronts.

Clarke said a basic goal is to deploy best practices sooner.

"There are lots of studies nationally that show from the time evidence comes out in research to the time that we deploy it at the front lines with doctors and nurses in every patient scenario - not just occasionally - there is a huge gap," Clarke said. "It takes more than 10 years before that is embedded as a standard of practice."

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