Health Care

UVM Medical Center slips in national quality rankings

Eileen Whalen
Eileen Whalen, president and chief operating officer of the University of Vermont Medical Center.​ Photo by Alexandre Silberman/VTDigger

The University of Vermont Medical Center has slipped in national rankings on quality and patient safety of academic medical centers.

In a 2017 survey, the hospital placed 26 out of 107 academic medical centers nationwide for quality and patient safety, according to Eileen Whalen, the president of the UVM Medical Center, who announced the ranking in an email to hospital employees.

The rankings are by Vizient, Inc., formerly the United HealthSystem Consortium, which has conducted annual surveys on hospital quality and patient safety since 2005. Historically, the evaluated criteria have been collaboration, a shared sense of purpose, a hands-on leadership style, vertical and horizontal accountability, and a focus on results.

The 2017 ranking marks the first time in seven years that the UVM Medical Center has not ranked in the top 20 academic medical centers nationwide. In 2016, the hospital ranked 13th, the sixth consecutive year in the top 20. The hospital ranked 16th in 2015 and 7th in 2013.

“This change in ranking is to some degree a reflection of the fact that each year Vizient updates and increases the rigor of the criteria used to determine rankings, and in 2017, a new, more precise methodology for scoring was introduced,” Whalen wrote in an email.

“This is good news nationally as our patients and families benefit when all of us in the health care industry continue to raise the bar on patient quality and safety,” Whalen wrote. “It also means that we need to continue to look for opportunities to improve.”

Whalen wrote that the hospital has a “roadmap for improvement” that includes working with the UVM Medical Center’s Jeffords Institute for Quality and Operational Effectiveness, which focuses on the hospital’s strategic goals for quality and patient safety. “I am confident we will continue to improve,” she wrote.

Donna Ledbetter, a spokesperson for Vizient, said in an email that the company does not give out information about the quality and patient safety survey beyond the annual press release naming the top-ranking hospitals in the country.

In an interview Wednesday, Whalen called the Vizient survey “proprietary” and declined to comment on the reasons the UVM Medical Center has slipped from the top 20 academic medical centers in the country.

Whalen did call the annual survey “one of the single most important things across our nation to really improve the quality of care rendered in academic medical centers.” She said the survey encourages competitive health professionals to “compete in a very, very healthy way.”

Whalen said the hospital is consistently working with the 50 employees at the Jeffords Institute to improve the quality of care. “They transform this work that we’re doing in quality and safety into research and publication, so that we share our really good best practices with other states,” she said.

Dr. Steve Leffler, the chief population health and quality officer for the UVM Health Network, said he is fully confident in the quality of care at the hospital. He said the hospital tries to tailor quality to each individual patient.

“What’s important to you when you go to seek medical care?” Leffler said. “You’re trying to accomplish (something specific). If we can accomplish that for you, that’s probably the most important measure.”

“At the end of the day, patient results are what we’re really trying to strive for,” he said.

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Erin Mansfield

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