Magazine gives Austin hospital poor surgery stay rating

Published 5:01 am Sunday, August 18, 2013

A recent Consumer Report article on the safest places to get surgery in Minnesota gave Mayo Clinic Health System — Albert Lea and Austin a split opinion.

The popular consumer publication ranked 52 Minnesota hospitals and more than 2,600 hospitals nationwide in five classifications of safe places to get surgery based on Medicare patients who died in surgery or experienced longer than normal hospital stays. The Albert Lea hospital joined 13 other hospitals at the top ranking, while the Austin hospital was among the three worst hospitals in Minnesota under the scenarios.

Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin CEO Mark Ciota said the Consumer Report survey used data from before the Albert Lea and Austin hospitals merged, used a small percentage of patients compared to the hospital’s overall patient population and focused on billing time, including length of stay rather than surgical outcomes or medical care quality.

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“Any time that you try to use billing data as a quality indicator, you have to be very careful because they’re not the same thing,” Ciota said. “You can’t get those specifics out of that data.”

Ciota said the hospital has already identified several things to improve based on previous reports. Albert Lea and Austin administration hopes to add more family practitioners to improve patient access and decrease wait times to be treated.

While hospital administrators pay attention to the various reports, Ciota reiterated the importance of improving medical care first and foremost.

“We’re not trying to improve the reports, we’re trying to improve the care and we know the reports will come after that,” he said.

The Consumer Report article comes as a separate survey, Minnesota HealthScores, ranked the Austin hospital well.

Austin fell in line with Minnesota averages in its patient experience, with 60 percent of patients reporting they received care when needed and were seen within 15 minutes of a scheduled appointment; 90 percent reporting their providers communicated well, respected them and spent enough time with them; and 92 percent rating the office staff to be courteous and helpful.

Overall, 81 percent of patients gave the Austin hospital a 9 or 10 out of 10 in terms of its quality.

In addition, the Austin hospital only had one medical error out of 12,637 surgeries between October 2011 and October 2012.

—Kevin Coss contributed to this report.