Wisconsin health care quality ranks high

Rising health care costs in southeastern Wisconsin have led to higher health insurance costs for area businesses, but according to some recent surveys, at least the state’s residents are receiving high-quality health care in exchange.

Wisconsin had the top overall health care quality score based on measurements used by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to evaluate health care performance.

“On several individual measures, Wisconsin scored better than average leading to the highest composite score of all states,” said Karen Ho, the lead staff person for the agency’s National Healthcare Disparities Report.

The performance measures that Wisconsin ranked highest in were: appropriate discontinuation of antibiotics after surgery, giving a beta blocker within 24 hours of admission to a hospital for heart attack, pneumonia patients receiving appropriate care, number of diabetics who receive an A1c hemoglobin test and the lowest number of HIV-deaths per 100,000 people.

Also, in a recent national survey of more than 1.5 million patients treated at more than 1,500 hospitals across the nation, Milwaukee hospitals ranked No. 1 (for metro areas with 500,000 or more residents) in patient satisfaction by patients who were asked to evaluate their experience in their city’s emergency departments.

The survey, conducted by South Bend, Ind.-based Press Ganey Associates Inc., was called the “2007 Emergency Department Pulse Report: Patient Perspectives on American Health Care.” The survey also revealed that Wisconsin had the ninth-shortest emergency room wait time in the nation.

“Milwaukee hospitals have placed the needs of the patient first by developing systems and protocols that have literally transformed the delivery of care in our emergency departments citywide,” said Bill Bazan vice president of metro Milwaukee for the Wisconsin Hospital Association.

In the future, Milwaukee hospitals plan to make their emergency rooms even better by developing a 24-7 real time communication link among all of the hospital emergency departments in Milwaukee County, Bazan said.

“The recently announced emergency department linking project will greatly assist clinicians by putting pertinent medical information at their fingertips that can help physicians diagnose and treat patients even faster,” he said.

In addition, a state scorecard released by New York-based The Commonwealth Fund’s Commission on a High Performance Health System ranked Wisconsin ninth in the country for health system performance.

The states were evaluated by the commission for health care access, quality, avoidable hospital use and costs, equity and healthy lives. The states in the Northeast and upper Midwest ranked high in multiple areas, and the states with the lowest rankings were mostly in the South.

“Over the past several years, several reports have been released evaluating the quality of care at the state level. We recognize that rankings depend on the measures included in the score, but Wisconsin consistently ranks high among top performing states,” said Wisconsin Hospital Association president Steve Brenton.

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