Tuesday, June 21, 2011 12:00 AM

Hospital earns 'triple crown' in medical quality, patient experience

Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital has once again achieved top ratings from HealthGrades® in bariatric surgery and also patient experience, just two months after being recognized as one of 15 hospitals nationwide for intensive care excellence. For patients this “triple crown” recognition is extra assurance they are receiving exceptional care.

There are more than 6,000 hospital intensive care units in the United States, and only 315 of those have been recognized with a Beacon Award by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses since 2003.

This is the third consecutive year the hospital has received HealthGrades Bariatric Surgery Excellence Award, placing it among the top 5% in the nation for the weight-loss procedure. And it was one of only five hospitals in the state to receive HealthGrades Outstanding Patient Experience Award for a fourth year in a row.

“These three awards are a continuing confirmation of our staffs’ and physicians’ focus on quality care for our patients. We pride ourselves on providing exceptional surgical and post-surgical care.” said Wanda Holderman, chief executive officer of Fresno Heart & Surgical.

Patient Richard M. Dustin isn’t surprised by the recognition. “My stay was a mere 27 hours,” he said of his November surgery, “but during those I was treated fantastically from the women downstairs in reception, the pre-operation staff and nurses through recovery and then to my final destination. All of these people’s attitudes were caring, informative and most of all positive. I had a fantastic experience. My wife was visiting and received the same treatment.”

HealthGrades analyzes the 27-question patient surveys required under the federal Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health Providers and Systems. Hospitals are rated on nurse and doctor communication with patients, responsiveness, pain management, discharge and medication information to patients, cleanliness and quietness, and whether the patient would recommend the hospital to others.

Bariatric Surgeon Kelvin Higa said the HealthGrades five-star rating is important to patients because bariatric surgery patients have a nearly 70% lower risk of experiencing complications while in the hospital and go home a half day sooner on average at top-rated hospitals compared to poorly-rated hospitals. Those were the findings from HealthGrades’ 2011 Bariatric Surgery Trends in American Hospitals report, which analyzed 193,518 bariatric surgery patient records from 468 hospitals in 19 states where data is publically available.

“We have improved our patient experience and outcomes while taking care of the difficult and challenging problems referred from other bariatric centers and surgeon,” said Dr. Higa, director of Bariatric and Minimally Invasive Surgery at the Fresno Heart & Surgical. "It is our mission and responsibility to be a resource and a tertiary referral center because of our experience and expertise.”

Dr. Higa, a clinical professor of surgery at the University California San Francisco and a national faculty member for Bariatric Surgery by the American College of Surgeons, added "We are fortunate to have partnered with an institution that shares the same ambition for the utmost in quality outcomes.”

Dr. Rick May, HealthGrades vice president of accelerated clinical excellence, said the ratings are something patients should heed: “Given the huge gap in quality between 5-star bariatric surgery programs and 1-star programs, choosing the right provider is critical. The decision to undergo major surgery is never an easy one, and a procedure is never guaranteed to be complication-free. But with the help of HealthGrades bariatric surgery program ratings, patients can optimize their chances for receiving the highest possible quality of care.”

 Erin Kennedy reported this story. She can be reached at MedWatchToday@CommunityMedical.org.