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Most Western New York hospitals get good grades

Most hospitals in Western New York performed at the state average in the fourth annual statewide report card released today by two health care groups.

The Alliance for Quality Health Care and the Niagara Health Quality Coalition examined deaths, numbers of procedures and patient safety measures, including infection rates and postoperative hip fractures, in 32 categories of care from 2005 data.

The groups ranked the hospitals based on whether their results were better, worse or the same as the state average.

Of the 29 hospitals in the region, 13 facilities scored above the state average in at least one of the 20 categories of care involving patient deaths and safety issues. Three facilities -- Buffalo General, DeGraff Memorial in North Tonawanda and North Street United Memorial in Batavia -- performed above the state average in two categories.

None here performed above the state average in more than two categories, although a handful of facilities elsewhere in the state received above-average rankings in as many as five categories.

Sixteen hospitals in the Buffalo area ranked below the state average in at least one of those 20 categories of care.

Two hospitals were below average in three categories -- Mercy and Lockport Memorial.

Overall in New York, the report card showed hospitals continued to make progress on the selected measurements since its inception.

"We are seeing that transparency works. For the fourth year in a row, we see small but consistent improvements in almost every measure," said Bruce Boissonnault, president of the Niagara Health Quality Coalition and the Alliance for Quality Health Care.

But the report also found that quality can vary between hospitals and within a hospital for different services.

In addition, the results underscore the rule of thumb in medicine that practice makes perfect. The data show that many facilities perform complex procedures at insufficient volumes to maintain excellent outcomes, according to nationally recognized thresholds for the numbers of cases it takes to achieve competence.

"We still see too many hospitals doing procedures in low volumes in instances where literature says the outcomes are better the more you do," said Boissonnault.

The Coalition and Alliance -- both of them groups of businesses, consumer groups and health plans -- compiled the report with hospital patient billing and discharge information from 2005. The results are available at www.myHealthFinder.com, which also offers a version in Spanish and a searchable map to highlight quality variations within a region.

"While no one report card can comprehensively compare hospital quality, the [Alliance] report confirms that continual quality improvement activities are paying off," said William Van Slyke, spokesman for the Healthcare Association of New York State, a group that represents health care organizations and hospitals.

e-mail: hdavis@buffnews.com

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