Meeting top performance levels could save lives

Solucient releases 100 Top Hospitals study

If overall performance in all acute-care U.S. hospitals were the same as the nation’s top hospitals, close to 57,000 more patients could survive each year and nearly $9.5 billion in annual expenses could be saved, according to a new study.

Solucient’s 100 Top Hospitals National Bench-marks for Success, a study released recently, recognizes 100 hospitals for setting national performance benchmarks across four critical areas: quality of care, operational efficiency, financial performance, and adaptation to the environment. The study found that the number of medical complications could decrease by more than 18% for patients in nonwinning or "peer" hospitals, affecting more than 150,000 patients annually, if those hospitals improved to the winning or "benchmark" performance level. If all hospitals operated at the benchmark level, a patient’s average length of stay could show a marked decrease, says Jean Chenoweth, executive director of Solucient’s 100 Top Hospitals program.

"Winners of the 100 Top award have demonstrated superior performance across their hospital as a whole by successfully balancing quality of care with operational and financial performance to better meet community needs and assure improvement of outcomes for patients, while adapting to external constraints and pressures," she says. "In short, these hospitals are able to bring increasingly better services to their patients and provide great value to their communities, despite the growing pressures of an aging population and tighter reimbursements."

Winning hospitals treat more and sicker patients than nonwinning hospitals, admitting an average of almost 16% more patients and maintaining higher patient-case mix than peer hospitals. The 100 Top Hospitals provided more successful outcomes, helping patients survive life-threatening illness 10% more often than their peers. Winning hospitals employ fewer staff, but offer nearly $2,000 more per employee in annual salary and benefits than do peer hospitals. A recent related Solucient study indicated that benchmark hospitals tend to maintain higher ratios of registered nurses to inpatient days. Total profit margins for winning hospitals are twice that of their peers. However, benchmark hospital revenue tied to outpatient services is lower than at peer hospitals.

The Southern region represents the highest number of benchmark hospitals (31), followed by North Central region (29), Northeast (26), and West (15). "Our results indicate that winning hospitals are achieving success through routine measurement of key performance indicators and collection of accurate internal and comparative information," Chenoweth says. "These hospitals appear to understand that a focus on daily organizational and clinical processes in combination with sound strategic decision making assures better patient outcomes and greater organizational efficiency."