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Pennsylvania hospitals improve quality measures

Pennsylvania's hospitals are above average when compared to national benchmarks of healthcare quality and often improve at a faster rate than the rest of the country, according to the Pennsylvania Health Care Quality Alliance.

The results of a recent study suggest that the state's hospitals may be well-positioned for the anticipated transition to a system of healthcare provider reimbursement based upon quality outcomes.

The PHCQA reviewed data collected by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Joint Commission from July 2008 to June 2009 across four major clinical areas: heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia and the prevention of surgical infections.

The alliance also looked at data collected by CMS on 10 criteria to measure patients' assessments of their experiences of hospital care.

According to the analysis, Pennsylvania hospitals showed improvement in 20 out of the 21 combined CMS and Joint Commission process measures. These indicators track how well a hospital performed on a checklist of best practices for delivering care.

Examples of process measures include the percentage of patients given aspirin following a heart attack, who had antibiotics appropriately administered before and after surgery and who were provided with a pneumonia vaccination if appropriate.

For 16 out of the 17 CMS process measures, Pennsylvania hospitals' average scores were as high or higher than U.S. averages. The number of Pennsylvania hospitals with average scores above the top tenth percentile nationally increased from 2008 to 2009.

The report also showed that Pennsylvania hospitals maintained quality gains. Pennsylvania averages that exceeded national averages in 2008 remained above national averages in 2009. The analysis of patient experience data showed gains in statewide scores, but some areas still have room for improvement.

The PHCQA also examined trends in CMS and Joint Commission indicators over a three-year period from 2006 to 2009. Most Pennsylvania hospitals' averages for process measures steadily increased, and some saw dramatic improvements. For example, the percent of eligible heart attack patients who received angioplasty, also known as Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI), within 90 minutes of arrival at the hospital went from 57 percent to more than 80 percent.

The PHCQA is a nonprofit group of heathcare organizations, including the Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, which represents more than 225 hospitals and health systems across the state.

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