Berkshire Medical Center wins national recognition again


PITTSFIELD -- For the second straight year, Berkshire Medical Center has received the Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence from Health Grades Inc. -- a rating that means the hospital is in the top 5 percent for patient care among more than 4,500 hospitals nationwide.

The Healthgrades award was presented to hospitals that had an overall 26.4 percent lower risk of mortality across 19 common procedures and conditions between 2010 and 2012.

Healthgrades, a leading provider of comprehensive information about physicians and hospitals, has recognized BMC with the award in three of the last six years.

"I think the death rate is so important to hospitals because you have to have so many things going well in order for that number to do good," said Diane Kelly, BMC's chief operating officer.

"You have to have good physicians, a good nursing staff, great support services and also have the financial and administrative commitment of the health system to allocate the resources you need for those things," she said.

Nationwide, 260 hospitals were recognized, including 10 other institutions in Massachusetts, including Baystate Medical Center. The annual survey evaluates all hospitals nationwide -- except those specialized toward serving veteran and correctional facilities -- using data from Medicare in-patient data.

Gary Elrodt, chief quality officer and chairman of the Department of Medicine, said the results are significant because BMC scored comparable results with some of the best hospitals in the nation.

"We're [being measured] in the same mix of the Mayo Clinic, UCLA, and Mass General," Elrodt said.

The hospital administrators credited a collaborative and team-oriented culture. Elrodt said two-and-a-half years ago the hospital embraced a training philosophy called Crew Resource Management, which is commonplace in the aviation industry to avert disasters before they happen.

To avoid problems, the hospital incorporates checklists when necessary, encourages concise communication, collaboration and teamwork -- steps that can open the door to a cultural change.

"We think [crew-resource management] is contributing to a major reduction in both mortality and complications," Elrodt said. "We felt that would take us to the next level of reliability."

In the Healthgrade report, which includes 14 broad-based categories, the hospital scored similar to last year. The hospital is on par with other top-notch hospitals in preventing death following a serious surgery complication and in cases where mortality is usually very low.

The hospital scored higher than others in three categories: avoiding bloodstream infection following surgery; avoiding deep blood clots in the lungs or legs following surgery; and providing fluid to patients following surgery.

Similar to last year, the hospital scored below average in two categories: allowing collapsed lung due to a chest procedure and breakdown of an abdominal incision.

Elrodt said the hospital has improved in these areas and the results should show in the future. He pointed out the results are from three years ago, and the hospital has since invested in new technology that more aptly guides doctors.

Moving forward, hospital officials said they are "well positioned" as both the state and federal government start to incentivize paying hospitals for keeping patients healthy.

BMC is expanding its continuum of care to include a cancer center, investing in community wellness programs, and promoting better collaboration with partners to ensure patients follow through with best practices.

"You don't get the clinical excellence award by doing one or two things, but you have to be good across the board," Elrodt said.

To reach John Sakata:,
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