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Medicare gives local hospitals mixed reviews

STORY BY MEG LAUGHLIN (Week of Decber 19, 2013)

In just-released statistics rating categories of hospital care, Indian River Medical Center got mixed reviews, while Sebastian River Medical Center fared well in practically all of the updated categories.

The data, which the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services collects and distributes “to help improve hospitals’ quality of care,” appears on the Medicare Hospital Compare website, which receives more than one million page views a month. 

The new indicators rank more than 4,700 Medicare certified hospitals across the country on the basis of stroke care, blood clot prevention and treatment, and hip and knee replacement care, as well as general readmission numbers and treatment for intestinal infections at both hospitals. The data was collected between January and April of this year.

Indian River Medical Center got high marks in stroke care – though not as high as Sebastian River Medical Center, according to the latest numbers. The Vero Beach hospital also did well in cutting down on readmissions after knee and hip surgery, as did Sebastian.

As far as cutting down on intestinal infections and general readmissions, IRMC did better than Sebastian and better than the national average.  But Indian River got low scores in several categories relating to blood clot prevention and treatment.

The website explains why blood clot prevention and  treatment are so important, saying that hospital patients often have to remain in bed for long periods,  which puts them at increased risk of developing blood clots. These clots can break off and travel to other parts of the body, causing serious problems, even death.

The site keeps track of how often “safe, effective and proven methods to prevent blood clots or to treat them” are employed. 

The numbers show that 62 percent of Indian River Medical Center patients got treatment to prevent blood clots on the day of (or day after) hospital admission or surgery, while 100 percent of Sebastian patients did.

Furthermore, 63 percent of IRMC patients with blood clots received the recommended treatment (including the use of two different blood thinners at the same time) while 100 percent of Sebastian patients received the recommended doses.

Furthermore, the Medicare website shows that 58 percent of IRMC patients discharged on a blood thinner received written instructions on how to use the medicine – a number well below the national average of 70 percent. For Sebastian, the number was too small to report.

In the category of patients on an intravenous blood thinner – who were checked to see if that blood thinner was putting them at increased risk of bleeding – Indian River, with 97 percent, fared better than the national average of 96 percent, but not as well as Sebastian’s 100 percent rating.

Sebastian River Medical Center CEO Steve Salyer said he was very pleased with the numbers: “Our outstanding record is apparent when looking at the Hospital Compare website. We consistently hit 100 percent on a number of key quality indicators,” said Salyer.

Salyer attributed Sebastian’s high ratings to two things: “The commitment to quality by our physicians and staff, and how we as a team hold each other accountable to a high standard.”

Emails to Indian River Medical Center seeking comment were not returned.