Consumer Reports: ETX home to best surgery hospitals in TX

Consumer Reports: ETX home to best surgery hospitals in TX

LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) - Update: An earlier version of this story did not include Longview Regional Medical Center. According to Consumer Reports, Longview Regional Medical Center also received the highest surgery rating. You can read the previous version here.

In a report Wednesday, we told you that East Texas is home to some of the best surgery hospitals in the state. It turns out, the news was even better than we thought.

Consumer Reports is the leading evaluator of products and services in the world. Wednesday, they released their own hospital surgery ratings for the first time ever, but the magazine delivered to KLTV was different than the one many East Texans received at their homes.

Thursday, we learned the magazine printed five different versions of their hospital surgery ratings story. Consumer Reports tells us, the magazine sent to KLTV "was the newsstand copy that had a national abridged list. The magazines mailed to subscribers broke down the list into 4 regions."

If you compare the two, you'll see the lists are very different. As reported Wednesday, Mother Frances and Texas Spine and Joint Hospitals were top rated hospitals in the area.

"The surgeons here enjoy what we do. We want to take care of patients and we want those patients to have the very best outcome," says Todd Bengtson, a peripheral vascular surgeon at Mother Frances Hospital.

However, Longview Regional Medical Center was one, too.

"We're very honored," says Longview Regional Medical Center CEO Jim Kendrick.

Kendrick says their high rating is the result of teamwork.

"Our partnership with the medical staff, working with the doctors to identify the things that they feel are the most important in giving their patients the best outcomes,"  he says.

Kendrick adds that they've just doubled the number of operating rooms they have... now totaling 16. This fall, they will have doubled the number of beds they have in the hospital, too.

"We're growing and we're growing because patients put their faith in us to come get care. We're excited about that opportunity and we'll continue to provide them great care and give them great outcomes," says Kendrick.

He also says they stand out to Consumer Reports because 99.7 percent of their surgery patients don't contract infections. The same number of patients don't have blood clots, either.

"Those are two common things that people worry about when having surgery and we virtually don't have that problem here," says Kendrick.

State of the art equipment and quality surgeons add to hospitals like Longview Regional Medical Center, and so many others in the area coming out on top, in Consumer Reports' ratings.

Good Shepherd Medical Center in Longview received the second highest ratings.

East Texas Medical Center in Tyler was rated lowest of the East Texas hospitals.

"Everything is built around quality," says Texas Spine & Joint Hospital CEO Tony Wahl.

Texas Spine & Joint Hospital is small, but Wahl credits safety, a hand-picked staff and quality surgeons for their superior ratings.

"We do the same things over and over... the same types of surgery. We have it down," he says.

"It's always very rewarding to be recognized for the work that you do," says Good Shepherd Medical Center Vice President Ron Short.

Short says East Texans are fortunate to have multiple hospitals rated high on the list.

"I honestly do believe working with administrators in different capacities from Longview Regional, Mother Frances and others, that there are some really great hospitals in this area. Some of the best in the state. The best in the nation, but that doesn't mean we rest on our laurels and don't continue to try to improve to make it better," Short says.

In a statement regarding their rating, quality officer Ralph Carroll, with East Texas Medical Center in Tyler said:

"ETMC Tyler is unique in that we are at the center of a large, 15-hospital regional healthcare system. Because of that we draw patients from a 27-county area; we are truly the hospital of East Texas. This distinction results in our having a higher share of acutely ill patients, many of whom live in rural areas where access to healthcare is a challenge. Finding a suitable facility for transfer of these patients once the hospital stay is complete often results in longer lengths of stay – one of the two factors in the Consumer Reports ranking. We are also the only Level I trauma facility in East Texas; it is interesting to note that very few hospitals with Level I trauma centers in the state scored high in the rankings. For example, Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas and Memorial Hermann in Houston received the same ranking as ETMC Tyler.

In general, healthcare scoring systems are helpful as a general guide, but it's important for consumers to recognize that healthcare is an incredibly complex process. Trying to capture the "safety" of healthcare in a series of numbers is difficult and can result in oversimplification. The Consumer Reports surgery safety methodology looks at only two factors, using Medicare data that is several years old. These systems also struggle with accurately depicting the variations in patient acuity at each facility.

In some scoring systems, ETMC does significantly better than other hospitals in the area. This is not the case in the Consumer Reports ranking, which we feel is overly simplistic. While imperfect in terms of identifying true quality, scoring systems such as this one encourage transparency and discussion, which has the potential to improve healthcare. We appreciate the effort of outside agencies to assist consumers, and we review the data as part of our quality improvement efforts."

In the study, Consumer Reports analyzed the billing claims and records of 27 categories of commonly scheduled surgeries. The surgery ratings are based on the percentage of the hospitals' Medicare patients who died in the hospital or stayed longer than expected for their procedures.

Other Consumer Reports findings show that:

Specialty hospitals tended to rank higher Name recognition isn't everything--- big names like the Cleveland Clinic and Johns Hopkins didn't get the higher ratingsgs. Rural hospitals, on average, did better than urban hospitals. Some hospitals nationwide say the Consumer Reports data was not consistent with the data from their own research. UT Health Northeast was not included in the Consumer Reports study.

In the study, Consumer Reports analyzed the billing claims and records of 27 commonly scheduled surgeries. The surgery ratings are based on the percentage of the hospitals' Medicare patients who died in the hospital or stayed longer than expected for their procedures. You can see more of Consumer Reports' ratings of hospitals across East Texas by clicking here.

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