Ominous chest pains, a car wreck, a sick child in the night – we often don’t know when or why we’ll require the services of our local hospital.

But when Maine people do need their hospital, they can take comfort in the fact that hospitals here, on average, are the best in the nation.

Maine offers higher quality hospital care than any other state in the country, according to data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Hospital Compare website (www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov).

CMS posts individual hospital performance scores and state and national averages.

The hospital-reported data is subject to CMS validation.

Using the most current available scores for all of the quality measures listed below, the Maine Hospital Association calculated the state’s rankings:

Process quality: The average of hospitals’ performance on 32 quality measures across four clinical areas – heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia, surgical care – for the 12-month period ending March 2011. A higher score is better. Maine scored an impressive 96.9 percent on this measure. The national average was 93.

Patient experience: The average of hospitals’ patient experience of care survey scores for all 10 categories measured for the 12-month period ending March 2011. A higher score is better. Maine hospitals scored 74.4. The national average was 70.1.

Readmission: The average of hospitals’ rates for three clinical areas – heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia – for the three-year period ending June 30, 2010. In this measure, a lower score is better. Maine scored 20.6. The national average is 20.9.

Mortality: The average of Maine hospitals’ rates for three clinical areas – heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia – for the three-year period ending June 30, 2010.A lower score is better for this measure. Maine scored 13. The national average is 12.8.

Overall, Maine hospitals averaged a better score than any other state and the District of Columbia.

The men and women who provide patient care at our hospitals 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, should be applauded for their hard work and focus on quality.

It is thanks to their diligence that patients can expect some of the best care in the United States.

Our hospitals have long provided outstanding care to our communities.

In 2003, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, using similar data, ranked the quality of care provided by Maine’s hospitals as third best in the country since 1998.

In 2011, Maine hospitals ranked third-best in the country according to a report from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which used many of the same measures from Hospital Compare along with claims and other data not posted by CMS.

Maine hospitals also led the nation in measuring and reporting the quality of health care services.

As early evidence of our commitment to transparency and accountability, MHA was among the first organizations in the country to routinely and voluntarily publicly release hospital-specific quality data, including patient survey results.

Although they are already leaders in providing high-quality health care, Maine’s hospitals still strive to improve.

As the science of medicine evolves, so does the science of health care quality.

The field is advancing rapidly and hospitals routinely re-evaluate how they structure, measure and monitor quality management.

They use that information to improve patient care.

In 2009, the MHA board of directors clearly restated its commitment to quality improvement in its five-year strategic plan called “In Pursuit of Excellence: The Hospital Commitment.”

The document is available under the “Quality” tab on the MHA website at: www.themha.org.

It outlines a concrete substantive action plan around defined goals that will, when achieved, make genuine progress toward better health care.

The Maine Hospital Association is proud of the superior care our members provide in addition to their robust efforts to continually improve.

We all hope we’ll never have to go to the hospital, but it’s comforting to know that if and when we do need their services, Maine hospitals provide such high quality care.