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The company that operates hospitals and clinics in Northwest Arkansas, Fort Smith and Berryville was selected as being one of the nation’s Top 5 large health systems for the fourth year in a row.

St. Louis-based Mercy, which operates Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas in Rogers, Mercy Hospital Fort Smith and Mercy Hospital Berryville, is recognized in the 2019 Watson Health 15 Top Health Systems study. In the study, Watson Health recognizes five large, five medium and five small systems from 338 health systems and 2,422 hospitals across the U.S.

Shorter hospital stays, fewer complications and better patient results are among the metrics used to rank Mercy as one of the best large health systems in the nation.

“By putting rigorous plans in place, we’ve been able to achieve improvements such as reducing common health-care associated infections like C-diff (Clostridium difficile) by more than 60 percent,” said Lynn Britton, president and CEO of Mercy. “This means we can prevent unnecessary suffering for our patients and get them home healthier and sooner.”

The focus on health-care associated infections is a new metric in the study due to its impact on patient care – including reducing deaths – as well as lowering the cost of care. Mercy’s efforts tied to C-diff reduction have led to significantly higher prevention and earlier detection, and have resulted in avoiding more than $5 million in health care costs from 2016 to the present.

In March, Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas was named one of the nation’s 100 Top Hospitals by IBM Watson Health.

“Our hospitals’ focus on quality care continues to make a huge difference to the patients we serve, delivered in the spirit of the Sisters of Mercy who came before us,” said Eric Pianalto, president of Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas.

Mercy’s recognition for the quality of its care comes at a time when the Northwest Arkansas Council is working with the region’s health care providers and educators to expand health care and health care training in the region as a way to create jobs and spur more economic activity. An assessment commissioned by the Council and made public last year showed the region loses about $950 million a year because people living in Northwest Arkansas travel to medical centers in other places to receive the medical treatment they need.

Consultant Tripp Umbach recommended doing more to keep those people going elsewhere to seek medical care. The firm suggested that Northwest Arkansas should work in concert to expand medical education and graduate medical education and to develop a medical research institute. It also was recommended that the Northwest Arkansas Council should create a health care transformation division focused on strengthening health care across the region, and that’s being pursued.

The study noted that the quality of care across Northwest Arkansas is high and its cost is lower than most regions in the U.S. The region needs more medical specialists, though, especially cardiologists, endocrinologists and oncologists.

Mercy, which is a partner in the Northwest Arkansas Council health care project, was noted for its excellence and as a Top 5 health care system by Watson Health, an IBM company and formerly known as Truven Health.

Watson Health produces the only study of its kind to combine rigorous analysis of individual hospital performance metrics into system-level data, identifying the best health systems in the nation. This annual, quantitative scorecard uses objective, independent research and public data sources. Health systems do not apply for consideration.

Pictured at the top: Nurses Wendy Albright and David Womack check on a patient in the emergency room at Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas in Rogers.

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