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Gainesville hospital ranked No. 2 behind Mayo Clinic in overall care
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John Vachtsevanos, an orthopedic surgeon with Specialty Clinics of Georgia, performs a total hip replacement surgery in an operating room at Northeast Georgia Medical Center. - photo by Erin O. Smith

For tops in overall hospital care in the U.S., there’s the globally known Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and then, there’s Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville.

That’s according to CareChex, an independent health care quality rating service, which has ranked NGMC No. 2 in a recent study of “America’s Top Quality Providers.”

The CareChex study includes virtually all general, acute, nonfederal hospitals in the U.S. and measures them across several categories, including quality of medical care, outcomes of care and patient satisfaction, according to its website.

Hospitals do not apply to be part of the CareChex study, and they cannot opt out of being rated.

“To be named one of the top three hospitals in the nation, between other industry icons like Mayo Clinic’s flagship campus in Rochester, Minn., and University of Michigan Health System is quite an honor,” said Carol Burrell, president and CEO of Northeast Georgia Health System.

“Our clinical staff, support staff, providers, board members, volunteers and leaders bring a passion for excellence to the table each day — striving to be better tomorrow than we are today — and it shows,” she said.

Kevin Bloye, spokesman for Georgia Hospital Association, said the high ranking is “a tremendous honor ... not just for every employee and physician at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, but for the entire Gainesville area that relies on (the health system) for its health care needs.”

The only other Georgia hospitals in the top 100 of the 342 hospitals that were judged in overall hospital care are University Hospital in Augusta, at No. 43; Redmond Regional Medical Center in Rome, at No. 57; and Gwinnett Medical Center in Lawrenceville, at No. 93.

The study also ranked NGMC No. 1 in Georgia for overall medical care and overall surgical care, as well as tops in cardiac care, orthopedic surgery, vascular surgery, women’s health, neurological care and pulmonary care.

“I think that understanding how the rankings are done is important,” said Dr. Jeffrey Marshall, an interventional cardiologist with NGMC’s Heart Center.

Noting specifically cardiac care, he said that “by looking at Medicare data, they can look at how many people were admitted with heart attacks, how many people had angioplasty and heart surgery, and then they can trace how those people did.”

Marshall added, “I’m not surprised that we’re that good, because we have great people and that’s what hospitals are about.”

He said two of NGMC’s interventional cardiologists trained at the University of Michigan. And several hail from Emory University, including Marshall, who served as director of cardiac catheterization labs for Emory Healthcare for a decade.

“It’s pretty easy to replicate or, in fact, exceed the care of much bigger organizations, because they are unwieldy and can’t respond to changes as quickly as we can,” Marshall said.

Dr. Charlie DeCook, an orthopedic surgeon with The Longstreet Clinic, said NGMC has become a destination center for orthopedic care. And Dr. Darrell Scales, an orthopedic surgeon, said NGMC Braselton in South Hall will have the same level of care once it opens later this year.

Dr. Priscilla Strom, chief of medical staff and a general surgeon with The Longstreet Clinic, said “being rated No. 1 across so many different specialties speaks volumes about how our entire medical staff works together to improve the health of our community in all we do.

“The awards are just a byproduct of a team effort that saves and improves lives, one person at a time.”

NGMC “has delivered high-level, consistent care for the years that we have been doing our (ratings),” said Bob Stahlsmith, vice president of Comparion Medical Analytics, based in Greenville, S.C.

CareChex is a division of Comparion.

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