Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 9, 2013

Editorial: Munson needs to address findings

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — If anything certain came out of Consumer Reports’ first effort to compare how surgical patients fare in 2,400 U.S. hospitals — in which Munson Medical Center was given its lowest rating — it’s that Munson must address the amount of time patients spend in the hospital.

The study also pointed out the need for more comprehensive and more standardized data used for such comparisons. While the hospital got a “worst” rating in surgery, it was said to the the best in the state in other categories — a mixed message at best.

Length of stay is a familiar issue.

Munson has been named a “Top 100” hospital every year since 2004 and 14 times in 20 years, a mark reached by only two other hospitals, in a ranking published by Truven Health Analytics.

But Munson didn’t make the Top 100 this year, in part because of the length of patient stays, though Truven Analytics has a different perspective on that issue than Consumer Reports.

David McGreaham, a physician and Munson’s vice president of medical affairs, said that while “You don’t want to get people out of the hospital before they are ready,” the hospital can be “a very dangerous place to be with the potential for infections.” And longer stays can be “very expensive.”

McGreachen said Munson also faces transportation and patient follow-up “challenges” because it serves a large rural area.

Munson did well in other areas. While only four hospitals of 29 in Michigan earned the magazine’s “worst” rating, Consumer Reports also gave the hospital a first place in the state for patient safety. That ranking was based on infection, re-admission, complication and adverse effects data.

The “worst” rating was also based on the percentage of people who died in the hospital, but Munson officials said they found that confusing.

McGreaham said Munson’s benchmarks for mortality are at or below the expected number. “It’s very confusing,” he said. “If we look at surgical complications, we’re better than expected in the Medicare database.”

As much as the hospital can explain why it ranked where it did, falling out of the Top 100 and getting stung by Consumer Reports in the same year is troubling, and something Munson must quickly address.

McGreaham said patients would be wise to research their medical options, such as checking out a surgeon’s reputation and depth of experience. But that’s not easy, and something the hospital itself must help patients accomplish.

Only Munson can fix itself. The community that has for so long depended so completely on the hospital — and in return given it unprecedented support — expects nothing less.