Monday January 28, 2013

I found the Berkshire Eagle’s article about Berkshire Medical Center receiving the "Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence" from HealthGrades more than a little misleading. The Berkshire Eagle should have examined things a little more critically, rather than simply repeating the press release about BMC receiving a dubious award from a for-profit website that proclaims itself to be "a leading provider of comprehensive information about doctors and hospitals."

First off, the hospitals that are named in the survey are Healthgrades’ biggest customers and provide the majority of the company’s revenue. Hospitals that are highly rated need to pay HealthGrades to license their ratings and trademarks for use in the hospital’s marketing and promotions. Also, the data used to determine these rankings, using a secret formula, was extremely limited in both type and scope. It is only based on information about complication rates in Medicare patients in a relatively small number of areas. The fact that a patient did not get an infection does not mean that the surgery was performed well.

If you look at the hospitals that achieved this award of excellence, there is a remarkable absence of most of the finest, most innovative, world-renowned academic medical centers in the country. In our own state of Massachusetts, Mass General and Brigham and Women’s Hospitals did not make the list, but BMC did. Anyone who believes that the medical care at BMC is superior to either of those hospitals is clearly confused, misguided or just plain not being honest. BMC is what it is: a small community hospital with a few good doctors and a lot of pretensions.

DAVID SIEGEL, M.D.

Pittsfield