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Publish Date: 4/6/2005

LUH fares well in report
Web site offers data on quality of hospitals


LONGMONT — After gathering data from all but 60 general hospitals nationwide, the federal government has unveiled the Hospital Compare Web site.

Longmont United Hospital voluntarily participated in this national push to standardize hospital performance and met or exceeded national and state averages in eight of its 10 reported categories.

Boulder Community Hospital reported in 15 categories and met or exceeded national and state standards about half the time.

Louisville’s Avista Adventist Hospital reported in 10 categories and performed at or above national and state averages in four.

In Weld County, North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley participated in 15 categories and scored at or above national and state averages in 13 of them.

All four community hospitals tended to fare best in heart attack quality measures and worst in pneumonia care.

Under the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Medicare launched the site to give consumers, health-care providers and insurance companies 17 quality measures across three critical areas: heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia.

About 99 percent of the 4,200 general hospitals nationwide participated to make it the most “apples to apples” quality comparison ever, said Mike Fierberg, spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Denver.

“We wanted to equip people to think more concretely about (health-care) quality,” he said.

Fierberg said some results in smaller hospitals could be statistically insignificant if a reported category considered 30 or fewer patients.

LUH reported two categories with low numbers and still outperformed the other two hospitals in Boulder County.

“Patients are shopping for health care like it’s Nordstrom’s,” Longmont United Hospital spokesman Dave Palmisano said. “This is another option to evaluate value.”

Category descriptions included the percentage of heart attack patients given ACE inhibitors, which stifle the hormone production that narrows blood vessels; the percentage of heart failure patients given discharge instructions; and the percentage of patients given pneumococcal vaccination, which can minimize complications from pneumonia.

Though all participating hospitals voluntarily shared data from January to June 2004, Congress passed the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 to make that decision good business.

The act docks the 60 nonparticipating hospitals 0.4 percent — slightly half of 1 percent — of Medicare reimbursement, Fierberg said.

“That doesn’t sound like much,” said Erich Kirshner, a spokesman for the Aurora-based Colorado Foundation for Medical Care. “But because hospitals very typically receive up to half their revenue from Medicare, it is in fact a significant amount.”

About 42 percent of Longmont United Hospital patients claim Medicare reimbursement, Palmisano said.

LUH participated, he continued, to be fiscally responsible and transparent.

“We’re community-owned, and we have the obligation to inform our community on how its hospital performs,” he said.

Pam Mellskog can be reached at 303-684-5224, or by e-mail at pmellskog@times-call.com.

The best of Boulder and Weld counties

Percent of heart attack patients given beta blocker at arrival

• National average: 83 percent

• Colorado average: 90 percent

• Longmont United Hospital: 100 percent

• Boulder Community Hospital: 98 percent

• Avista Adventist Hospital: 100 percent

• North Colorado Medical Center: 100 percent

The worst of Boulder and Weld counties

Percent of pneumonia patients given pneumococcal vaccination

• National average: 43 percent

• Colorado average: 51 percent

• Longmont United Hospital: 22 percent

• Boulder Community Hospital: 38 percent

• Avista Adventist Hospital: 50 percent

• North Colorado Medical Center: 48 percent

For more information www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov

— U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

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