When it comes to cardiac care, Northeast Georgia Medical Center finds itself in elite company.
For the sixth year in a row, the center has earned a No. 1 ranking across the board on the HealthGrades survey for Georgia hospitals.
Specifically, the medical center earned top billing statewide for overall cardiac services, cardiac surgery, nonsurgical cardiology services and coronary interventional procedures.
According to medical center staff, only a few hospitals nationwide have earned that distinction for consecutive years.
"We're one of only five programs in the nation that have received a No. 1 in all four categories for three consecutive years," said Sean Couch, medical center spokesman.
"Each year the number of hospitals that have achieved that same statistic gets lower. Last year, we were one of six hospitals nationwide that had a No. 1 ranking in all four categories for at least three years. This year, there are only five."
Although they are pleased with the recognition, staff members say they haven't been able to remain in the top spot by patting themselves on the back every day.
"The reason that we're able to produce this type of result year after year is because we are fortunate enough to have a group of people who love what they do. ... Everyone loves their job. We come to work every day and we believe in what we are doing 100 percent," said Dr. Dan Winston, Northeast Georgia's medical director of cardiac surgery.
"We never think about the (rankings) until they come out. But we do think about patient care every day - every minute. We want to make sure that we're giving top-quality care to every patient."
Tom Edwards, medical center director of heart and vascular services, echoed Winston's sentiments.
"Technology is critical to what we do. You have to have state-of-the-art equipment to provide state-of-the-art care, but anybody with the money can buy that stuff. What you can't buy are the people who drive it," Edwards said.
"Our staff is what sets us apart. And our board and administrators have been so supportive, making sure we have what we need to be successful."
Goal setting is also a key factor in the hospital's success.
"... We expect everyone to do their best for our patients, based on what we know to be best practices for patient care," Edwards said.
HealthGrades independently rates hospitals annually, based on patient data that must be reported to the federal government. The awards and ratings are based on patient death and complication rates.
The medical center also earned five-star ratings for coronary bypass surgery, treatment of heart attacks, valve replacement surgery and treatment of heart failure.
"I am so proud of this place. It's a great hospital. I can honestly say that we can compete with any place in the country. Not just compete - we can do a better job," Winston said. "I'd compare us to places like the Mayo Clinic. I know our skills and our commitment to this program; we can do a better job than any other place in the country."