The Science of Urgent Excellence

March 28, 2016


When is hospital quality arguably most important? The answer is: when patients have a health emergency, outcomes urgently matter.

Excellence in Emergencies

For 2016, Healthgrades America’s 100 Best Hospitals outperformed all other hospitals in their treatment of emergent health conditions. In fact, they were five timesmore likely to have earned a Healthgrades 5-star rating for treating some of the most common conditions seen in your emergency room.

The 2016 America’s 100 Best Hospitals achieved a risk-adjusted mortality rate over 26% lower than that of other hospitals for the treatment of 19 conditions. But they really excelled in treating the most serious health conditions. Healthgrades earlier noted this performance advantage for sepsis in Distinguished Hospital of Clinical Excellence award recipients, which outperform in treating a broad spectrum of conditions. This relationship holds true for America’s 100 Best Hospitals, too, which qualify for recognition based on three-year sustained quality performance in multiple clinical areas.

The 5-Star Difference

Specifically, the percentage of America’s 100 Best and all other hospitals with a 5-star rating for a given condition was:

  • Sepsis: 94% (America’s 100 Best) versus 21% (all other hospitals)
  • Pneumonia: 80% versus 14%
  • Heart Attack: 63% versus 12%
  • Stroke: 60% versus 13%
  • COPD: 46% versus 6%

Why do high-performing hospitals achieve such excellent outcomes for serious, life-threatening conditions? These are common illnesses that require a rapid, coordinated response from the care team. Most are also the focus of consumer education initiatives. So for organizations that prioritize high-quality care, these are the types of challenging conditions they address first.

Quality When It Matters

There are a variety of quality metrics, rankings, and awards in the healthcare marketplace. Many include technology, staffing, or reputation in their calculations, in addition to complication and mortality rates. But for consumers in need of emergency medical care, the 2016 America’s 100 Best Hospitals represent outcomes-based quality excellence when it matters most. First and foremost, patients want to emerge alive and well from their hospitalization.

The media often focuses consumer messaging on differentiating between urgent and emergent care. The goal is to guide patients to the facility with the appropriate corresponding acuity level. But patients with truly emergent health concerns also need to know which nearby hospital to visit for the best care.

For patients, best means evidence-based, rapid, and coordinated care that gives them the greatest chance to regain their quality of life. Patient loyalty is also higher when patients can trust a hospital during a life-threatening health emergency, meaning they are more likely to return for routine and elective care. As U.S. healthcare transitions away from fee-for-service reimbursement, this consumer “stickiness” will reward high-performing hospitals.

Finally, as the 2016 America’s 100 Best Hospitals demonstrate, organizations that excel in treating emergent health conditions also excel in addressing a wide variety of less acute clinical areas. That is hospital quality that inspires patient confidence.

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