Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 18, 2013

Forum: Munson committed to reducing length of stay

BY ED NESS

---- — Evaluating health care quality today is complicated and confusing. It would be great for all of us if there was one easy way for consumers to know where to get the safest, best health care.

This issue recently gained attention after a Consumer Reports article rated Munson Medical Center, along with other nationally known hospitals such as Cleveland Clinic, John Hopkins, and Massachusetts General Hospital, as having low quality surgical care. Ironically, this report followed a Consumer Reports article in March that showed Munson Medical Center was No. 1 in the state for overall patient safety.

Although we, along with many others in the hospital industry, have concerns about the methodology used by Consumer Reports in its first foray into the healthcare ranking business, we welcome the increased discussion on how to measure hospital quality.

One of Consumer Reports’ main findings was that surgical patients at Munson Medical Center have a longer length of stay than the “best-practice” benchmark. That’s true. This also affected Munson Medical Center’s evaluation as a top 100 hospital and is confirmed in our internal data. We are conservative when it comes to discharging patients and are cautious about sending someone home who has been hospitalized.

We agree that having patients stay in the hospital longer than necessary is not appropriate. To that end, we began a major organizational redesign initiative last year to improve the smooth, timely delivery of patient care. In May, Munson Medical Center’s new president, Al Pilong, made reducing length of stay one of the hospital’s top initiatives for the coming year. Al will oversee ambitious efforts to reduce length of stay by one full day within the next three years. We are already seeing early indications of solid progress toward that goal.

This process redesign initiative encompasses each step of patient care, from pre-registration all the way through discharge to home or another care setting. We are committed to reducing length of stay, but we will not do so at the expense of a well-coordinated, safe discharge. We discharge patients when we think it is clinically appropriate and safe for them to leave, and only after we have ensured they have the support, instructions, medications, and follow-up care they need. This is especially important in a rural area such as ours where many people live far from health care services.

Our philosophy has been and always will be that if we do the right thing for patients, ratings and awards will come. The best and most important recognition we receive is our community’s pride and confidence. We are committed to maintaining that trust, and we welcome further dialogue about transparency, outcomes, and clinical quality.

About the author: Ed Ness is President and Chief Executive Officer of Munson Healthcare, an eight-hospital system serving northern Michigan.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by e-mailing letters@record-eagle.com. Please include biographical information and a photo.