Southern Ohio Medical Center President Randy Arnett said the poor marks the hospital received in a new government study on heart attack mortality rates are outdated and do not reflect current rates.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services Dept. report named SOMC as one of the seven worst hospitals in the country for 30-day death rates from heart attacks.
Furthermore, SOMC is the only one of 158 hospitals in Ohio that are worse than the national rate.
But Arnett said the report is misleading.
The ratings are based on hospital claims data filed from July 2005 to June 2006 by Medicare and Medicaid.
“We have to remember that government data is usually a little old,” Heart and Vascular Services Director Amy Beinkampen said on Friday. “The data reflects us prior to our heart care program starting in October.”
Before then, state law limited hospitals without heart care programs to basically stabilizing heart attack victims and sending them to hospitals with such programs.
SOMC doctors now can perform emergency catherization and stent placement, also called angioplasty.
Before October, if the patient died within 30 days, the mark went against SOMC or the first hospital they were treated at.
“We know that angioplasty on site has better results than transferring out,” Arnett said. “This data supported our decision to begin intervention services and expand heart-care services at SOMC rather continue to send patients out of town.”
Beinkampen said the hospital found out about the results last week.
The government gave hospitals around the country a public report card Thursday that measures their performance in the treatment of patients suffering from heart attacks or heart failure.
SOMC's ranking in the latter category is in the normal range of U.S. hospitals.
Officials took a conservative approach in scoring the nation's nearly 4,500 hospitals. Almost all performed at the national average when it came to their patient mortality rates.
However, for heart failure, 38 hospitals were listed as performing better than the national rate for heart failure, and 35 were listed as performing worse. For heart attacks, 17 performed better; 7 worse, including SOMC.
The rating took into account each hospital's mortality rate, but it also incorporated other factors, primarily each hospital's patient mix.
For example, some hospitals see more elderly patients or more patients with diabetes than their competitors. So their rating takes that sicker patient mix into account.
Arnett also said since SOMC is in a rural area, it sees a lot a patients who are not well-educated in nutrition and other ways to prevent heart problems.
Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said that posting the hospitals' performance meets the administration's goal of helping consumers know what they're getting for their health care money.
“People need to know not only what their health care costs, but how good it is,” Leavitt said.
At the same time, the ratings will also spur hospitals to take steps to improve their ratings, something Arnett and Beinkampen said SOMC is doing.
“It really wasn't an attempt to embarrass hospitals in any way, shape or form,” said Herb Kuhn, deputy administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Beinkampen and Arnett said SOMC has treated 60 acute heart attack patients since October with no problems. They said the hospital has received an award from a national non-profit hospital organization for its performance since then.
“We believe the best heart care is when the blockage can be cleared as quickly as possible,” Beinkampen said. “The recommended time for opening a blocked artery is 90 minutes from door to balloon (angioplasty). But we're doing it in about 75 minutes, which is well below the average.”
The full report is available at www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov.
The Associated Press contributed to this story. JEFF BARRON can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 236.