Technician Bruce Hinchey processes patient specimens Tuesday in the laboratory at Plains Regional Medical Center. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer
Medical services at Plains Regional Medical Center are on par with those at other New Mexico hospitals, according to a new report available online. But that may not be the best indication of quality.
New Mexico hospitals lagged consistently behind national averages in a measure of hospital services, according to information on the Web site Checkpoint, a new accountability system sponsored by the New Mexico Hospitals & Health Systems Association.
The site measures how well state hospitals follow nationally accepted care procedures in response to three costly and common health problems: heart attacks, heart failure, and pneumonia. All but one of New Mexico’s 35 state hospitals are Checkpoint participants.
Plains Regional Medical Center treated enough medical cases to score its heart failure and pneumonia services.
“The areas that don’t show a score are areas where we didn’t have enough patients to give statistically valid results,” said Plains Regional Medical Center Administrator Brian Bentley. He said patients with heart problems are frequently transferred to other facilities with specialty doctors and specific surgical capabilities.
A slim 15 percent of PRMC heart-failure patients received recommended discharge instructions, the report showed. That percentage is 4 points higher than the state average, but that average lies dismally below the national average, which is 46 percent.
In another category: An overwhelming 65 percent of PRMC-admitted patients 65 years and older diagnosed with pneumonia were not asked if they had received a pneumococcal vaccination and did not receive the vaccination prior to discharge from the hospital. Again, that number is comparable to the state average, but 12 points below the national percentage average.
Though Bentley believes the report is a fair indication of hospital performance, it can be misleading, he said. Hospitals must strictly follow recommended procedures for treatment, which sometimes involve four or more steps. Not one step can be missed.
“When they created the measures, they defined exactly what had to be (done), and it wasn’t necessarily what had been done historically,” Bentley said.
“Hospitals have always provided discharge instructions for patients, for example. But in determining whether or not the instructions would be counted, they created a set of points that had to be included. If you miss one step, you can’t count it,” he said.
Bentley said the protocols used in this report were introduced at PRMC just in the last year. He said the hospital has made significant progress not shown in the online report, especially in its smoking cessation program.
The report will be updated every three months, according to The Associated Press.
When will Plains Regional Medical Center and other New Mexico hospitals catch up with others around the nation?
When the state gets wealthier, according to Bentley.
He said there is a definite correlation between poor health and financial status.
On the Web
Read about this organization online at www.nmcheckpoint.org