These 24 hospitals excelled in COVID-19 pandemic, Healthgrades says

The group examined hospitals with the highest volume of coronavirus patients in the first several months of 2020. Healthgrades’ chief medical officer says it’s a way to recognize providers who delivered exceptional care.

In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, some hospitals stood out in the face of unprecedented challenges.

Healthgrades has compiled a list of 24 hospitals that excelled in their treatment of coronavirus patients in the opening months of the pandemic.

Each year, Healthgrades produces a ranking of America’s best hospitals. Brad Bowman, chief medical officer of Healthgrades, said the group’s examination of hospitals in the COVID-19 pandemic “is completely different than anything we’ve ever done before.”

In an interview with Chief Healthcare Executive, Bowman said, “We wanted to recognize these hospitals, almost as a thank you.”

Bowman said colleagues initially talked about the uneven distribution of COVID-19 patients. Some hospitals became magnets, partially because they had more staffing or more ventilators.

“That led to the idea,” Bowman said. “Wouldn’t it be interesting to find the hospitals that were the most in the fight and who fought the best fight?”

Compiling the list

Healthgrades sought to look at those hospitals that had cared for a heavy volume of COVID-19 patients. Healthgrades evaluated hospitals that treated more than 750 COVID-19 patients from January through September 2020. The average mortality rate of those hospitals was 24.6%, and the 24 hospitals recognized by Healthgrades had mortality rates below that mark.

Healthgrades examined patient data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for the vast majority of U.S. hospitals (the survey did not include military hospitals or Veterans Administration facilities).

It wasn’t an easy task. Plus, Bowman said Healthgrades couldn’t really adjust for risk with the government data. Some hospitals with higher mortality rates among COVID-19 patients could have also had patients who had more acute illness.

Bowman said colleagues at Healthgrades debated about doing such a list, saying they didn’t want to offer the impression that hospitals that didn’t land on the list weren’t offering top-notch care. Plus, some hospitals with fewer COVID-19 patients ended up caring for more patients with other health needs, which still provided an important service.

For those reasons, Bowman said, “We’re intentionally not calling this an award.”

Ability to adapt

Many of the hospitals on the list are based in the East and South, and Healthgrades notes the coronavirus spread fastest in those regions in the early months, while other parts of the country were hit harder later. Healthgrades stressed there is no intention to undercut the critical work of hospitals across the country in the battle against the pandemic.

The 24 hospitals recognized by Healthgrades demonstrated the ability to act and react quickly, Bowman said.

“One thing that stood out for me was the ability for them to adapt rapidly, to create new care models in response to what was a really unprecedented set of circumstances,” Bowman said. “The ones that were flexible and more adaptable did better.”

Hospitals on the list also demonstrated good communication and made sure that staff had what they needed.

Some hospital leaders told Healthgrades about some of the ingredients for their early success. Michael Young, president and CEO of Temple University Health System, said it was a team effort.

“Our entire medical staff — not just certain specialties — rotated through the COVID hospital to ensure we had adequate coverage and that the workload didn’t fall on just a few departments,” Young told Healthgrades. “We saw therapists, nurses, EVS, transport, non-clinical staff, and many others all come together to help one another, even if the work was not in their usual scope. We used our subject matter experts to run every area of the operation and listened to their advice.”

George Ralls, senior vice-president and chief medical officer of Orlando Health Orlando Regional Medical Center, said his organization created special task forces before they treated their first COVID-19 patient.

“As pandemic scenarios evolved, so did we,” Ralls told Healthgrades. “We stayed up-to-date with expert guidance and published scientific findings through a physician-led medical management task force. Logistical planning was supported by internal prediction models developed by our strategy team that supplemented publicly available models.

“Most importantly, we decided early on to actively counter distracting or misleading information with logical decision-making,” he added. “Through this process, we encouraged our leaders to creatively find solutions (not wait for them), anticipate failure points, and plan ahead.”

While the list was very different from Healthgrades’ typical studies, Bowman said he thought it was worthwhile and suggested Healthgrades may do a similar evaluation next year. He said he hopes this initial study would provoke interesting conversations in healthcare.

“We really wanted to do this,” he said. “It was fascinating to us and we thought there might be a chance it was interesting to other people."

The full list

Healthgrades recognized these 24 hospitals for their success in caring for COVID-19 patients. They’re listed alphabetically.

AdventHealth Orlando in Orlando, Fla.

Advocate Christ Hospital and Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill.

Ascension Providence Hospital, Southfield Campus in Southfield, Mich.

Baptist Hospital of Miami, Miami, Fla.

Baptist Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas

Baton Rouge General, Mid-City, La.

Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich.I

Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, Mich.

Houston Methodist Hospital, Houston, Texas

Lakeland Regional Medical Center, Lakeland, Fla.

Lenox Hill Hospital, New York, N.Y.

Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital in Houston, Texas

Methodist Hospital in San Antonio, Texas

NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York, N.Y.

North Shore Medical Center, Miami, Fla.

Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville, Ga.

NYU Langone Health Tisch Hospital in New York, N.Y.

Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans, La.

Orlando Health Orlando Regional Medical Center in Orlando, Fla.

Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, La.

St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, Fla.

Stony Brook University Hospital, Stony Brook, N.Y.

Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pa.

Yale New Haven Hospital in New Haven, Conn.