San Diego Business Journal

An evolving new benchmark study of 255 health systems’ performance in eight clinical categories named one local provider among the nation’s top 10 leaders and is raising the bar across the country for inpatient health care delivery.

The Thomson Reuters 100 Top Hospitals: Health System Benchmarks study assessed the quality and efficiency of inpatient care at participating health systems using specific slices of public data such as mortality, complications, patient safety, 30-day readmission statistics, core measures of evidence-based data, average length of stay and patient satisfaction.

Scripps Health ranks eighth among top health systems identified in the study, according to results announced June 21.

“The health system award is doggone hard to win. It’s one thing to win a hospital award and another thing entirely to win for top system,” said Jean Chenoweth, senior vice president of performance improvement and the 100 Top Hospitals studies program at Thomson Reuters. “And you cannot apply for the recognition. Since we use only public data, you are in it whether you like it or not.”

Thomson Reuters is a leading information resource for businesses and professionals and has combined industry expertise with the latest technology to deliver objective statistical data on the nation’s top hospitals since 1993.

This is the second year for the health systems study, which was formulated, in part, due to the onset of health care reform, Chenoweth said.

Public data regarding health systems’ mortality and 30-day readmission rates have been introduced nationally for the first time in the past year, she said.

Study Evaluates Public Data

Like all 100 Top Hospitals studies, the Health System Benchmarks study uses only publicly available data, such as data gathered for Medicare billing or other purposes. Its two primary sources: the Medicare Provider Analysis and Review data and reports from the independent Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Hospital Compare data set.

The current study’s results derived from 2007 and 2008 Medicare Provider Analysis and Review data and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services data published in the third quarter of 2009.

Qualified health systems had at least two acute-care hospitals with a minimum of 25 beds each. The average number of hospitals for all systems in the study was 7.5.

The top 10 performers had to meet the median performance requirement for each of the eight indexes and were determined by a sum of their respective individual scores for each. This produced their overall ranking.

“What we are trying to do is create a benchmark for these health systems that are distributed across the country,” Chenoweth said. “Hospitals aren’t content to look at statistics that show what the average success rate is in a particular clinical area.

“Hospitals want to be the best. Setting and publishing a benchmark helps hospitals that aren’t on that list find ways to improve.”

Recognition for Quality

Chris Van Gorder, Scripps Health’s president and chief executive officer, said he was not aware of the study until he received a call about it June 18.

“The significance is that all of our hospitals have been recognized at one time,” Van Gorder said. “There has never been a study quite like it. It’s one thing to be recognized as a top hospital for a specialty. It is much more difficult to get hospitals aligned around quality.

“I am particularly proud of this recognition,” he added. “This gets my attention — I am much happier with the systemwide recognition. It’s not just praise for pockets of good performance.”

Scripps Health member hospitals include Scripps Mercy Hospital, Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, Scripps Green Hospital and Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas.

Van Gorder said Scripps Health has evidenced-based best practices in many areas of its organization, but in the past this information was not shared.

Improvements Integrated Systemwide

Scripps Health did not make the benchmark study’s winner’s list in 2009.

“Literally in the last year we put systems from different campuses in the same structure,” he said. “I am pleased about Thomson Reuters’ study because it is public data and it reflects that what we are doing is working.”

The public reporting of performance data is critical to health care reform, Van Gorder said. Government reporting of errors or patient satisfaction gets the attention of hospitals, administrators and physicians.

“Administrators like statistics, but when there is clinical data on individual physicians, this begets more alignment among doctors, nurses and staff,” he said. “There will be more hospitals that will hit this list in the years to come than perhaps have in the past. My goal now is I need to stay on the darn list.”

Karen M. Hsu is a freelance writer for the San Diego Business Journal.