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Colorado Springs hospitals get high marks for surgery

August 29, 2013 Updated: August 31, 2013 at 6:26 am

A national magazine ranked two Colorado Springs hospitals among its top 10 across the U.S. for limiting complications during and after surgery.

Consumer Reports listed Memorial Health System and Penrose-St. Francis Health Services as among the top hospitals and hospital systems in the nation for surgery safety after analyzing Medicare billing claims for 27 types of surgeries. No other city boasted two hospitals on the list of top 10 hospitals.

The rankings placed another quill in the hat for each local hospital system amid the vast - perhaps overwhelming - menu of nationwide rankings systems, observers said.

"There are dozens of these types of reports out there," said Julian Kesner, a Colorado Hospital Association spokesman. "All of them have different methodology...

"Obviously we're thrilled that two of our member hospitals did well on this report, but with the proliferation of these types of reports out there, we always urge patients to never rely just on a single report when making health care decisions," Kesner said.

To compile the top 10 list, Consumer Reports took the hospitals that received its highest surgery ratings, then dwindled that number by looking at hospitals that regularly performed at least 10 of the 27 procedures examined, the report said. Only those that never received a poor rating while earning a high ranking nearly one-third of the time were listed in the top tier.

Hospitals in California, Maryland, Ohio, Oklahoma, Illinois and Arizona also made the top 10 list.

Memorial Health System includes Memorial Central and Memorial North, while Penrose-St. Francis Health Services includes Penrose Hospital and St. Francis Medical Center.

The report "speaks to the excellent health care that we have available in our community," said Mike Scialdone, chief executive of Memorial Hospital. But it could also point to Colorado Springs' quality of life - a major pull for highly-touted doctors looking for work, said Margaret Sabin, Penrose-St. Francis' chief executive.

"We've been working very hard to raise our bar in surgery," said Margaret Sabin, Penrose-St. Francis' chief executive. "But really, it's about the medical staff... I think it's a testament to Colorado Springs and our beautiful community."

The surgical rankings paint the hospitals in a far better light than the magazine's overall score, which takes into account several factors including infection rates, body scanning techniques and patients' overall experience at each facility.

Penrose St. Francis Health Services received score of 52 out of 100, while Memorial Hospital received a score of 42. The data was largely compiled from 2011, before University of Colorado Health leased Memorial Hospital.

Both hospitals have been busy with massive improvement projects.

Memorial Hospital is in the midst of three-year, $90-million project - nearly half of which was dedicated to a new electronic health records system. It also plans to upgrade its trauma services to a Level I facility - the highest grade possible.

Penrose-St. Francis Health Services plans to open a hybrid operating room at Penrose Hospital - one allowing for invasive and non-invasive procedures - as well as an Orthopedic Center of Excellence at St. Francis Medical Center, which includes two new operating rooms. Penrose-St. Francis officials declined to release cost estimates for its improvements.

Whether Consumer Reports' rankings accurately reflected the advancements or pitfalls of each hospital remains to be seen, said Nicholas Osborne, vascular surgery fellow at the University of Michigan.

A 2010 study he led found that only eight hospitals appeared on the top-50 hospital lists of two major sources - HealthGrade and U.S. News & World Report.

In addition, the methodology used by Consumer Reports can often make smaller hospitals' performance appear better, because they perform less complicated surgeries, Osborne said.

"This comes down to the same thing: It's another rating system," Osborne said. "I think everyone is still searching for the answer as to how best to identify the safest or best hospitals to go to."


Contact Jakob Rodgers: 476-1654

Twitter @jakobrodgers

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