Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Maine Medical Center has been ranked the top hospital in the state and rated "high performing" in five specialties by U.S. News & World Report.
The MMC ranking follows a recent listing by Consumer Reports magazine that ranked the Portland hospital last among four hospitals in Maine that were studied for safety. Consumer Reports also said the 637-bed hospital was below the national average for safety.
The conflicting rankings reflect the lack of national standards for quality ratings for hospitals, the varying methods used in the rankings, and the different focus of the studies, experts said.
"When you're going to buy a car or a baby stroller, you look at several different sources of information -- and hospitals are much more complicated to rank than a car," said Dr. Dora Mills, former director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the current vice president for clinical affairs at the University of New England. "It's important to look at the rankings and ratings -- the more the better."
The American Hospital Association's survey of discharged patients weighed heavily in the U.S. News & World Report rankings, so those rankings relied on patient satisfaction.
The Consumer Reports study used several databases and looked at safety issues, but sampled only four Maine hospitals, Mills noted.
"It's confusing," said Avery Comarow, U.S. News & World Reports' health rankings editor. "These are complicated times. Health care is complicated."
Now in their 23rd year, the U.S. News & World Report rankings looked at factors such as reputation, patient survival rates, patient safety, and care-related factors such as nursing and patient services. Hospitals in the top 25 percent of the range in a given specialty were recognized as high-performing in that specialty.
No Maine hospital was nationally ranked.
U.S. News & World Reports' rankings highlighted 732 Best Regional Hospitals, narrowed down from nearly 4,800 hospitals nationwide. The rankings indicate that hospitals are highly proficient in serving the needs of most patients in at least one specialty.
Maine Medical Center received "high performing" ratings in areas including cancer, gynecology, nephrology, orthopedics and urology. MaineGeneral Medical Center's Waterville Campus was recognized in four areas of specialty (diabetes and endocrinology, geriatrics, pulmonology and urology), Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor ranked high performing in two areas (heart and heart surgery, and nephrology), and Mercy Hospital in Portland ranked highly in one specialty (geriatrics).
Nationally, Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston was named the country's top hospital, displacing Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. Hopkins had been at the top for 21 consecutive years.
Comarow said patients should look at all the data available and ask questions of their doctors and hospitals.
The August issue of Consumer Reports looked at six categories in its safety ratings: infections, readmissions, communication about medication and discharge, overuse of scans that pose risks because of radiation, complications, and mortality.
Fifty-one percent of the hospitals rated by Consumer Reports received scores below 50 points on a scale of 1 to 100. The average score, and the mean rating of the hospitals ranked, both were 49 points.
Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston scored the highest in Maine, at 65 points, MaineGeneral Medical Center-Waterville Campus got 59 points, Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor got 57 points and Maine Medical Center got 46.
"We believe we're a safe hospital to come get care," said Dr. Doug Salvador, vice president of quality and patient safety for Maine Medical Center. "We can't get too high about ranking well on U.S. News or too low for ranking low on Consumer Reports."
Staff Writer Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at: