Vermont hospital receives five-star rating

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BENNINGTON — With a five-star rating from the federal government under its belt, the local hospital is now in the top tier of hospitals across the country.

Southwestern Vermont Medical Center has earned a five-star rating for Overall Hospital Quality in 2017 from the federal agency that runs the Medicare program; it is the only hospital in the state and one of only 6 percent across the U.S. to do so.

The recognition comes, in part, from a culture of patient-centered care the hospital has built, according to Thomas Dee, president and CEO of Southwestern Vermont Health Care.

"It doesn't come from just one area, but a total team approach," Dee said Thursday. "From the medical staff and nursing team, to housekeepers, and technology and support services. It comes from putting the quality of patient care first."

The rating comes from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The center rolled out the expanded program last year. The overall rating represents 57 "quality measures" on the center's Hospital Compare website.

The ratings, according to CMS, help consumers make decisions about where they receive health care, and "encourages hospitals to improve the quality of care they provide."

The 99-bed campus in Bennington receives a substantial amount of payments through Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older, certain younger people with disabilities, and people with End-Stage Renal Disease. Dee said medicare recipients make up over 65-percent of SVMC's patients.

The patient's experience score is calculated from a voluntary survey, the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems. The survey covers topics such as how well doctors and nurses communicate with patients, how responsive hospital staff are to patient needs, how clean and quiet hospital environments are, and how well patients are prepared for post-hospital settings. The system also evaluates clinical measures in the areas of patient safety, mortality, readmissions, effectiveness of care, timeliness of care, and efficient use of medical imaging to assign the star rating. SVMC earned four stars in 2016.

The 2017 questionnaire results show that 81 percent of SVMC patients reported that doctors "always" communicated well, while 83 percent reported the same for nurses (above the national average of 80 percent). And 89 percent reported in the affirmative that they were given information about what to do during their recovery at home.

Of the 4,579 hospitals nationwide eligible to receive a Star Rating, only 260 received the top rating, according to CMS.

Ratings earned by other hospitals in the greater region: Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and Rutland Regional Medical Center each earned four stars, Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Mass. earned three stars, and Albany (N.Y.) Medical Center Hospital earned two stars.

Ed Damon can be reached at edamon@benningtonbanner.com, at @edamon_banner on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 111.

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