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Ratings Celebrate Our Strengths, Show Us Our Opportunities

Such performance placed Treasure Valley in the 5 percent of the best hospitals in the United States for performance in critical care, joint replacement, and vascular surgery. Patients cared for at St. Luke’s had a 75 percent lower risk of dying and 61 percent lower risk of a complication than patients with the same conditions or procedures that received care at a one-star hospital.
By Dr. David C. Pate, News and Community
October 22, 2012

Today, HealthGrades released its annual Star Reports, which measure the performance of hospitals across the United States with respect to mortality and complications for 28 different conditions. I've asked Dr. Bart Hill, St. Luke's chief quality officer, to share what the ratings mean. His thoughts follow. 

St. Luke’s Health System is proud and honored to have three hospitals recognized as top performers in a number of these conditions.

For St. Luke’s, there were 24 five-star ratings for conditions such as:

  • Pneumonia care in Wood River;
  • Hip fracture, carotid surgery, and stroke care in Magic Valley; and
  • Cardiac care for heart attacks and heart failure, stroke, pulmonary, hip and knee replacement, and spine, valve, carotid and vascular surgery care in Treasure Valley.

What does a star rating really mean? 

First, it is an external measure of our performance relative to comparable organizations and is an opportunity to identify our strengths and opportunities. The ratings help us assess our performance, celebrate our strengths, and identify opportunities for improvement.

HealthGrades measures all hospitals’ performance based upon the Medicare population with various conditions relative to mortality and complications. This comparison of similar patients across so many organizations is what makes such reports valuable as a yardstick of performance, both internally and externally. 

Approximately 70 percent of all hospitals will receive a three-star rating, or average performance, with approximately 15 percent of hospitals receiving either a one- or a five-star rating.

As proud as I am of our excellent performance, I am also excited about our opportunities for improvement. 

Improvement is a never-ending journey, and the HealthGrades information provides clarity about where our performance can be improved. When improvement is made, our patients and communities will experience even better outcomes, and that is what matters.

We have seen our performance improve over time, as indicated by the progression from 11 five-star ratings two years ago to the 24 this year. 

We also have maintained our excellence as shown by statistically better performance than other hospitals for overall orthopedic care for three consecutive years, for cardiac valve surgery for six consecutive years, and by being the top-ranked hospital in Idaho for vascular surgery since 2005. 

This improvement and maintenance of excellence validates the hard work of so many of our staff members, physicians, volunteers, and leaders who have committed themselves to providing the very best care for St. Luke’s patients.

In addition to the HealthGrades announcement, there have been other recognitions, including St. Luke’s Magic Valley’s second consecutive Joint Commission’s Top Performance award for compliance with core measures. This award acknowledges performance and leadership that merit national attention. 

Also, St. Luke’s Treasure Valley was recognized for the third consecutive year as a national leader by Truven (formerly Thomson Reuters) as one of the Top 50 organizations in the country for cardiovascular care.

Much like HealthGrades, the Truven recognition compares performance for Medicare patients across more than 1,000 eligible organizations, but uses a slightly different set of criteria, including readmissions, costs, length of stay, and safety, in addition to complications and mortality.

St. Luke’s Treasure Valley also recently received its Primary Stroke Center Certification from the Joint Commission. This achievement reflects a commitment to meet and exceed identified standards of care for patients that come to St. Luke’s with acute strokes. 

The value of standardized stroke care is being replicated across all St. Luke’s Health System sites, and preparations to apply for Primary Stroke Center designation have begun at Magic Valley. In the current HealthGrades report, we saw reflected an improvement to a five-star rating for stroke mortality in both Magic Valley and Treasure Valley this year.

With all the recognition, it can be confusing to know which ratings and rankings are meaningful and noteworthy. As independent sources of information, entities such as HealthGrades and Truven provide validation that we are making progress and that we are making a difference in the lives of our patients. They provide an opportunity to measure our performance against other organizations and against ourselves over time. 

We have a vision to be a national leader in health care, and these results and our own benchmarks lead us to believe that we are well on our way to achieving that vision.

Congratulations to everyone throughout our System. Thank you to our board members, who push us to be the best we can be. Thank you to our staff, because it takes everyone, from housekeeping, to food services and dieticians, to pharmacists, to laboratory technicians, to radiology technicians, to transportation, to nurses and unit secretaries, to truly achieve excellence.

Thank you to the leaders of this organization who have aligned with our System, regardless of which particular hospital or outpatient department may be their primary responsibility, realizing that we can accomplish things together that were never possible alone.

Thank you to our physicians, who are dedicated to providing the highest possible quality of care to their patients and who are leading the charge on implementing evidence-based medicine and best practices to reduce mortality and complication rates.

And thank you to our volunteers, who help us out in so many ways so that our staff can do what they do best: Care for patients. Without all of you, we would not be the leader in quality health care that we are.

Please join me in celebrating these amazing successes and acknowledging our achievements, even as we keep in mind where we can become better. I am so very proud of each and every one of you, and privileged to be a part of these accomplishments!

About The Author

David C. Pate, M.D., J.D., is president and CEO of St. Luke's Health System, based in Boise, Idaho. Dr. Pate joined the System in 2009. He received his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center.