July 16, 2013

MMC Maine's best hospital

By Joe Lawlor jlawlor@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Portland's Maine Medical Center was ranked the state's best in U.S. News and World Report's annual rankings of hospitals, released Tuesday.

Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor was ranked second in Maine and MaineGeneral Medical Center in Waterville third in the annual report, which is one of several that rank hospitals based on different criteria.

No Maine hospitals were ranked nationally in U.S. News' Best Hospitals report.

For the second year, Maine Med garnered the top spot in the state, ranked high-performing -- the top rating -- in eight specialty care categories, including cancer, cardiology, diabetes, geriatrics, gynecology, nephrology, orthopedics and urology. Last year, Maine Med was rated high-performing in five specialty categories.

"It speaks to the efforts of our specialists that we added three high-performing specialty categories this year," said Matt Paul, communications director for Maine Medical Center, the state's largest hospital. "We have a large campus and we are able to accommodate a lot of specialists and services that smaller hospitals are not able to accommodate. We offer the quality of a big-city hospital."

MaineGeneral was ranked high-performing in geriatrics, pulmonology and urology.

Maine Medical Center officials touted the U.S. News rankings, but not everyone agrees that the methodology behind the report is sound. Critics contend the rankings are subjective and there are no national standards for hospital quality ratings, so different ranking systems use different criteria.

Nationally, the U.S. News rankings put Johns Hopkins in Baltimore at the top nationally, followed by Massachusetts General in Boston and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

A 2010 study by a professor at Case Western Reserve University concluded that the U.S. News rankings were too heavily weighted toward reputation, as opposed to patient outcomes and other data-driven measurements.

In another ranking done for the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Maine Med received mixed reviews when compared to the national averages in measures of timely and effective care, readmissions, patient complications and other factors.

Medicare conducts patient surveys and measures timely and effective care, readmissions, patient complications and other factors. In many of these categories, Maine Med performed similarly to the U.S. average, according to the ratings listed on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid website.

Dr. James Raczek, senior vice president and chief operating officer at Eastern Maine Medical Center, said those who want to use the U.S. News logo when promoting the rankings have to pay a fee, which is one reason why he takes the U.S. News reports less seriously than other ratings systems.

"It does call into to question the motives behind the ranking system," Raczek said of the promotional fee. "It changes the dynamic."

Raczek said other hospital rating systems, such as those conducted by The Leapfrog Group, a health care trade industry group, are more informative and useful than the U.S. News rankings.

In 2013, the Leapfrog Group gave MaineGeneral's Waterville Thayer campus, Central Maine Medical Center and Maine Med the top A rating.

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