National magazine honors RRMC

By Patrick McArdle

Rutland Regional Medical Center was the only Vermont hospital named last week by U.S. News and World Report as a “Best Regional Hospital.”

Rutland Regional was not only the sole “Best Regional Hospital” designee in Vermont, it was also the only hospital in the state to achieve “high performing” status in four procedures and conditions: heart failure; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD; hip replacement and knee replacement.

Thomas Huebner, RRMC’s president and CEO, said last Thursday the magazine evaluated 4,500 hospitals across the United States. From that group, 545 were named as a “Best Regional Hospital.”

“Which means about 12 percent of the hospitals in the country that were eligible got the award. So we’re looking at this as meaning we’re in the top 12 percent, which is great,” he said.

The award is based on patient outcomes, which is the primary focus for the staff, Huebner said in an interview.

“We see this as acknowledgment of good work, but always as a springboard for continuing. No one should be resting on this at all. We certainly won’t. All the hospitals in the state, which are wonderful, are working to get better and better every day, and for us to keep up, we’re going to have to stay at it,” he said.

On its website, U.S. News said the regional hospitals are “community hospitals that are highly rated but may not be nationally ranked.”

U.S. News makes its rankings in 12 specialties and nine procedures and conditions. Among the patients who underwent the procedures or were diagnosed with the condition, U.S. News looked at outcomes like 30-day mortality, readmission within seven days, length of stay and, in most cases, patient satisfaction scores.

Huebner said he was pleased with the ranking because it shows the results of hard work from the hospital’s staff, which totals about 1,400 people.

“Every day, our physicians, our nurses, our respiratory therapists and techs and housekeepers and everybody in between. So, yeah, it was great,” he said.

In 2015, the Rutland hospital was given high marks for patient safety and a ranking called “common care.”

The magazine made some changes for this year’s ranking in the way they assign points to specialties and procedures, but Rutland Regional still received high marks under the new system.

Other awards the hospital received this year include an “A” grade in safety from Leapfrog, five-star rankings from Healthgrade for gall bladder removal surgery and knee replacement, and a safety award for obstetrics and gynecology services.

Huebner said the U.S. News award was especially rewarding.

“U.S. News and World Report probably is among the best, as far as its processes for selection, as well as the most rigorous. They’re also very well known not only in ranking of health care, but in education and other areas, so they’re a very credible source for an award,” he said.

Huebner pointed out that the award is not one for which the hospital applied. RRMC has also achieved magnet status for nursing, but that requires an application process.

The award has some other benefits for the hospital and the area.

Huebner said being recognized by U.S. News would make it easier to attract and retain good medical staff.

It can also be used as a tool by economic development organizations in the Rutland area as a way to attract residents to Rutland and businesses to the area: “Quality attracts quality is the way I look at it. If people say, ‘This is a good organization to work in, they have great-quality results, I want to be part of something like that.’ That’s a big deal.”

Huebner said the staff at Rutland Regional could expect an ice cream social soon to reward them for the work that earned recognition from U.S. News.

“To be recognized as frankly the only regional hospital in Vermont that achieved this kind of excellence is pretty special to us,” he said.