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Northside leads way on Medicare analysis
Emory, North Fulton also earn high marks
Nurse Melissa Sanders assists a patient at Northside Hospital-Forsyth. The hospital received a good score for patient care. - photo by File photo
When it comes to following the process of care, three hospitals in the Forsyth County area are doing just fine.

A recent analysis of hospital care for Medicare patients showed Northside Hospital-Forsyth, Emory-Johns Creek Hospital and North Fulton Regional Hospital had results similar to the national rate in terms of readmission, process of care measures and mortality rates.

For heart failure patient death rates and readmission for pneumonia patients, Northside Hospital-Forsyth topped the national rate.

“That score is a testament of our focus on quality,” said Russ Davis, hospital spokesman. “There is nothing significant about what we’re doing up there. It’s just a complete focus on quality. And so those results just represent what we’re trying to accomplish in terms of high quality care.”

The data, available on the Hospital Compare Web site, were collected through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agency, and the Hospital Quality Alliance.

The information tracked patients from October 2007 to September 2008 and covered pneumonia, heart issues and patient surveys.

Across the board, the three hospitals followed the process of care measures, or standard recommended treatment, at least 85 percent of the time and about 95 percent in most cases.

Among the lower marks for Northside Hospital-Forsyth were the percentage of heart failure patients given discharge instructions and the percent of patients who received treatment within 24 hours of surgery to help prevent blood clots.

Both figures were at 88 percent, the lowest marks the hospital received in any category.

“There’s always room for improvement,” Davis said. “We are constantly monitoring the care, clinical guidelines and clinical pathways and outcomes, regardless of what kind of service we’re providing.

“We’re constantly looking at the quality improvement process.”

In every measured illness, Northside Hospital-Forsyth treated more patients than the other two hospitals. For heart failure and shock, Northside Hospital-Forsyth treated 256 patients. Combined, the other two treated 184.

Though the data only tracks Medicare patients, Davis said those patients make up about 40 percent of patients admitted to the hospital for any medical condition. Davis also said the level of quality does not change based on health care coverage.

“Every patient deserves the same high quality care,” he said. “The bottom line is it doesn’t matter how the patient is paying for the care ... the focus on quality and clinical outcomes is the same.”

Not all hospitals in the state fared as well.

Grady Memorial Hospital, for example, had marks as low as 28 percent for percentage of heart failure patients given discharge instructions. The hospital’s death rate for pneumonia patients also trailed the national figure.

But the results for the three hospitals closest to Forsyth makes the county that much more desirable, said James McCoy, president and chief executive officer of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s not just for folks who are using Medicare. This makes it attractive, really, for everyone,” he said. “It just speaks well of what quality institutions we have that serve our community.

“These are three of the best in not just metro Atlanta, but in the state and, I would argue, the country.”