Official: Hospital Report Will 'Drive Improvement' — Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Associated Press

NEWARK, N.J. — Hospital experts say scrutiny breeds excellence.

If that's true, Bayonne Medical Center and St. Mary's Hospital in Passaic are poised for greatness because New Jersey's 2009 Hospital Performance Report identified major weaknesses at the facilities. Bayonne received the lowest score in the heart failure category among the 73 hospitals scrutinized while St. Mary's ranked last in surgical care and next-to-last in heart failure.

The sixth annual report released Wednesday measures hospital performance in four treatment categories: heart attack, pneumonia, surgical care and heart failure. Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck, Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville and AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City were the top performers.

"This is really good stuff because you can't manage what you can't see," said Dave Knowlton, president of the nonprofit New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute. "Everyone starts to improve when you put the spotlight on them."

Heather Howard, commissioner of the state Department of Health and Senior Services, said New Jersey hospitals have improved their performance dramatically since the state's first hospital performance report in 2004. They had a median score of 97 percent for providing recommended heart attack treatment, compared with 90 percent in 2004. The median score for providing recommended pneumonia treatment was 96 percent, compared with 75 percent in 2004.

The new report was compiled from hospital visits last year.

"It will drive improvements," Howard said.

Eliot Fishman, policy director at the state Department of Health and Senior Services, said the report's data are mined from federally mandated billing information with the goal of improving patient safety. A benefit is spending less money on avoidable medical complications.

The report allows consumers to make an educated health care decision in a field where they've often had to act on faith, according to Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of the watchdog group New Jersey Citizen Action. It also includes information on patient-safety violations for the first time, thanks to a state law passed in August.

The 12 measures of serious medical errors track things that aren't supposed to happen, like hospital-acquired infections, fractures suffered during treatment and the frequency with which foreign objects are left inside surgical patients. The miscue data is from 2007.

"This initial release of patient-safety indicators gives our hospitals a starting point to see where they stand," said Betsy Ryan, chief executive officer of the New Jersey Hospital Association.

St. Joseph's Wayne Hospital had the highest rate for foreign objects, with one being left behind in every 500 surgical patients. That compares with a national and statewide average of one in every 10,000.

Trinitas Hospital in Elizabeth had the highest rate for postoperative sepsis, with one of every 20 patients developing a serious bloodstream infection. That compares with a national average of one serious bloodstream infection for every 88 patients and a statewide average of one in 72.

Spokespersons at Trinitas and St. Joseph's Wayne Hospital did not immediately reply to a reporter's phone calls.

Sandy Siciliano, director of quality management at St. Mary's Hospital, said they've already taken steps to improve quality and safety. Siciliano said the Passaic facility is now providing recommended heart failure treatment 91 percent of the time, compared with 82 percent last year.

Allyson Miller, a spokeswoman for Bayonne Medical Center, said its problems were created before the 278-bed facility emerged from bankruptcy in February of 2008 under new management and already are being addressed.

"The 2009 report will show substantial improvement," Miller said.

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New Jersey's 2009 Hospital Performance Report:

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