Study names top 10 U.S. health systems

The research and consulting firm Thomson Reuters has released a benchmarking study identifying the top 10 U.S. health systems based on their hospitals' clinical performance.

The top 10 list comes from Thomson Reuters’ “100 Top Hospitals: Health System Quality/Efficiency Benchmarks” study. The New York-based firm’s researchers analyzed the quality and efficiency of 252 health systems and found statistically significant differences in several key areas.

Compared with the poorest performers, the best-performing quintile had 25 percent fewer deaths, 19 percent fewer medical complications and 13 percent fewer patient safety incidents – even though their patients were sicker and their average hospital stays were significantly shorter.

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Jean Chenoweth, senior vice president for performance improvement and 100 Top Hospitals programs at Thomson Reuters, said the study sets national benchmarks for health system quality and efficiency and extends transparency regarding the performance of healthcare organizations from hospitals to health systems.

"This wide range in performance levels raises potent questions about the mission of many health systems and their effectiveness in achieving goals," said Chenoweth. "The top 10 include for-profit and not-for-profit health systems, religious and secular organizations and facilities that differ in size, ownership structure and geographic distribution of member hospitals.”

Chenoweth said the diversity of health systems in the top 10 suggests that every type of health system has the potential to drive higher quality, and suggested that health systems could become a “powerful force for rapid improvement” in hospital performance as the industry is restructured.

The top 10 U.S. health systems, according to the study, are:

  • Advocate Health Care, Oak Brook, Ill.
  • Catholic Healthcare Partners, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • HealthEast Care System, Saint Paul, Minn.
  • Henry Ford Health System, Detroit, Mich.
  • Kettering Health Network, Dayton, Ohio
  • OhioHealth, Columbus, Ohio
  • Prime Healthcare Services, Victorville, Calif.
  • Trinity Health, Novi, Mich.
  • University Hospitals Health System, Cleveland, Ohio

Chenoweth said the study relied on public data from the 2006 and 2007 Medicare Provider Analysis and Review (MedPAR) data and the CMS Hospital Compare data sets.

All U.S. health systems with two or more short-term, general, non-federal hospitals were assessed. The Thomson Reuters research team looked at five metrics that gauge clinical quality and efficiency: mortality, medical complications, patient safety, average length of stay and adherence to clinical standards of care (evidence-based core measures published by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services).

"The development of national benchmarks provides health system boards and executives with an objective assessment of the care they provided to their communities and patients, relative to others across the nation," Chenoweth said. "This provides the basis for a serious discussion about the role and responsibility of the health system in assuring quality and efficiency to each community in which a hospital carries the health system brand."

The Thomson Reuters “100 Top Hospitals” program has reported on the performance of individual hospitals since 1993. The current study marks the first time they have assessed the relative quality and efficiency of inpatient care by health systems as single entities.