We report a lot about hospitals making strides to improve care in big and small ways. Sometimes, though, it is good to step back and see the forest through the trees. For instance, our November cover story examines the broad and lasting lessons of the Hospital Engagement Network program and its efforts to reduce patient harm across the board.

And earlier today, the Joint Commission issued its annual quality report, “America’s Hospitals: Improving Quality and Safety.” The report, which tabulates quality data from 3,300 Joint Commission-accredited hospitals across a specific set of core measures, shows that 36.9 percent of hospitals achieved “top performer” status, an 11 percent uptick from last year.

"The collective performance of these hospitals continues to steadily improve," Mark Chassin, M.D., president and CEO of the Joint Commission, said during a press call this morning. For instance, he pointed out that as recently as 2009, reporting hospitals achieved important PCI therapy for patients with heart attacks 87 percent of the time. In 2013, it was 96 percent.

Among the 1,224 top-performing hospitals, 712 have achieved that recognition two years in a row, 314 for three years and 147 over four consecutive years.

Some of the other key findings include:

  • 99 percent: Rate at which hospitals are performing evidenced-based heart attack care, up from 97 percent in 2009
  • 98 percent: Rate at which hospitals are meeting surgical care metrics, up from 92 percent in 2009
  • 92 percent: Venous thromboembolism care results, up from 82 percent in 2010

The scores are an aggregation of quality data reported to the Joint Commission during the previous year, or 2013 for this year’s assessment. Scoring methodology is detailed on Page 11 of the report.

Of course, as Chassin says, there’s still considerable room for improvement. The report specifically mentions better care and discharge plans for such things as childhood asthma and psychiatric patients. Chassin also noted that even among the top performers, there can be substantial variation in other aspects of quality and safety. So, in addition to continuing to implement evidence-based protocols, hospitals need to adopt a culture that embraces continuous improvement if they truly are tobecome highly reliable organizations.

Still, the Joint Commission and HEN data are encouraging. And, as we continue to march toward a value-based world, we’ll need to see even more progress on a broad scale.