23 Georgia hospitals get group’s ‘top’ rating

A major hospital accreditation organization is recognizing 620 U.S. hospitals as ‘‘top performers,’’ and 23 of them are in Georgia.

The Joint Commission said these hospitals –- 18 percent of those it accredits nationally — followed recommended protocols at least 95 percent of the time.

The Georgia hospitals cited range from big urban facilities such as Northside Hospital and Atlanta Medical Center to the small, 25-bed Higgins General Hospital in Bremen. But the large majority fall  into the medium-to-large category. Here’s a link to the entire national list.

Kaiser Health News reported that the Joint Commission’s approach relies on “process” measures, which track how often hospitals follow evidence-based treatment protocols, such as giving heart attack patients aspirin when they arrive and statin prescriptions when they are discharged.

The accreditation organization evaluated how each hospital provided care for patients with heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia or childhood asthma, or those who needed psychiatric services or underwent surgery. The Joint Commission also evaluated how well each hospital implemented measures aimed at preventing stroke.

KHN reported that the hospital industry favors these kinds of measures because they are easier to control and improve than standards used by some other hospital quality rating organizations, such as surveys of patients and analyses of the mortality and readmission rates of patients.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has said it wants to move away from evaluating hospitals based on process measures in favor of using medical outcome measures.

Another caveat noted by KHN is that teaching hospitals tend to have a tougher time with the kind of nearly perfect adherence to protocols that the Joint Commission tracks.

The teaching hospital issue sparked criticism of the Joint Commission’s list last year.

HealthLeaders Media reported that Mary Kay Bowie, the accrediting agency’s associate director, said the selection criteria the accreditation organization used are ‘‘a solely objective representation of a hospital’s performance. These data are submitted by the hospitals themselves, instead of using data that are developed or collected by any external organization, to determine which hospitals make the list.’’