In March, Truven Health Analytics named Lawrence Memorial Hospital one of the best 100 hospitals in the nation for the second year in a row. On Wednesday, a Truven official came to LMH to let its leaders know why. Her message: consistent improvement.
"We look at whether you're constantly improving, and that's probably more important than where you end up at any point in time," said Jean Chenoweth, senior vice president for Truven's Center for Performance Improvement. "It's your culture."
For its survey, Truven scored 2,803 short-term, acute-care hospitals on several performance measures and included the top 20 in five categories, from major teaching hospitals to small community hospitals. No other hospitals in Kansas or the Kansas City metropolitan area made this year's list.
LMH's five-year improvement statistics were better than 97 percent of medium-sized, community-based hospitals, Chenoweth said, noting that LMH won in that toughest category, which includes about 1,000 hospitals.
Chenoweth said Truven Health Analytics differs from other ranking systems because it isn't meant for consumers but to let hospitals know how they can improve. "You can't buy in, you can't apply and you can't buy your way out if you don't like your score," she said.
She said LMH excelled in average length of stay, where it scored 22 percent higher than the national benchmark; complications (4 percent better); and patient satisfaction (3 percent higher).
But LMH CEO Gene Meyer said the hospital would like to improve patient satisfaction even more, which is why it has a steering committee dedicated to service excellence.
"I think our scores need a little bit of work," said committee member Megan Pedersen, director of Lawrence General Surgery, Lawrence Neurology and Lawrence GI Consultants. "Patient-centered communication and how we communicate with our patients is key to how our patients feel about us."
She said it is crucial to reduce anxiety in patients so staffers can better help them fix their medical problems. That means saying "Relax, you're in good hands" rather than "Good luck on your surgery!" she said.
Meanwhile, Chenoweth said Truven is considering new metrics for its 2015 survey, including emergency room performance, Medicare spending per beneficiary and 30-day readmission rates for hips and knees. She noted that LMH performs well in all three areas.
"In summary, your strengths are almost everywhere," Chenoweth said, adding that LMH could look to improve its safety targets and profit margin while continuing to invest. "You need to share what you're doing with your peers."
After Chenoweth's presentation, the hospital's board of trustees gathered for its monthly meeting.
The board learned that LMH would not be fined by the federal government for a 2011 patient data breach that left patient financial information online.
The breach was revealed after a patient discovered a family member's billing information on Google. LMH found out that online bill pay vendor Mid Continent Credit Services had left the data unsecured.
But the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Civil Rights recently announced that it would not take legal action against LMH. Julie Roth, an attorney who represented the hospital in the matter, said that was likely because LMH was so cooperative with the government's investigation and proactive in assisting patients who may have been affected. She noted that the Office of Civil Rights recently came to a $4.8 million settlement with two other hospitals following a similar breach, and that the government has lately become more stringent in its enforcement of patient confidentiality.
The trustees also found out Wednesday that the hospital performed well on hospital accountability standards put in place by the Affordable Care Act.
LMH will earn a 0.63 percent Medicare reimbursement incentive for value-based purchasing in fiscal 2015, which starts Oct. 1, after earning high marks on process of care, patient experience, patient outcomes and efficiency. However, the hospital will receive a 0.005-percent penalty on Medicare patients for not performing up to standards on hospital readmissions, though it will not be penalized for hospital-acquired infections since it not did rank among the bottom quarter of hospitals on that measure.