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FL hospitals glow in private report

By David Gulliver
1/27/2010 © Health News Florida

Florida hospitals posted some of the strongest showings in a new national study of hospital quality compiled by a private company.

HealthGrades, a Colorado-based healthcare ratings firm, awarded its top marks to 43 Florida hospitals that it said were in the top 5 percent nationwide for minimizing mortality and complications. That put Florida among the best-performing states, trailing only Delaware, Maryland and Minnesota for the percentage of a state's hospitals in the top group.

Here is a list of the Florida hospitals that received top marks.

The firm's analysis of 5,000 hospitals is based on 40 million patient records from Medicare's parent agency from 2006 through 2008. The hospitals were evaluated on 26 procedures and conditions, adjusted for the severity of patients' cases. 

The firm then selected the top 269 hospitals, or 5 percent. That group's overall mortality rate was 29 percent lower than that of the remaining hospitals, and the complication rate was 9 percent lower, the firm said.

The annual listing, the firm's Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence, spotlights quality hospitals that get less public acclaim, while some of the biggest names in healthcare -- Johns Hopkins, Massachusetts General, Cleveland Clinic and the main Mayo Clinic -- do not make the cut.

HealthGrades' findings appear to vary from other evaluations of hospital quality. For example, several of its top Florida hospitals -- Bay Medical Center, Delray Medical Center, Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center, JFK Medical Center, Lee Memorial Hospital, Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center and Wuesthoff Medical Center -- all show higher-than-expected rates of infections due to medical care on Florida Health Finder, the state's online lookup of hospital quality.

But because HealthGrades is combining 26 different measures to create its index, and because it may use a different methodology than the state, any comparisons are difficult. "It's all in how you do the risk-adjusting," said Judy Milne, a former hospital quality of care officer.

HealthGrades sells its ratings reports directly to consumers, and to healthcare businesses both for internal use, in improving quality, and for use in advertising and marketing campaigns. Business customers accounted for about 62 percent of its $13.3 million of sales in the most recently reported quarter.

--David Gulliver is founder and editor of www.SarasotaHealthNews.org.