Getting Rankings Right
In this interview, Ekta Punwani of IBM Watson Health discusses the importance of award programs in driving performance at U.S. hospitals and explains how hospital rankings have evolved with industry changes.
EKTA PUNWANI | LEADER, 100 TOP HOSPITALS® PROGRAM | IBM WATSON HEALTH
Ms. Punwani is a trusted advisor to client executives on performance improvement opportunities and strategies based on the 100 Top Program studies. She provides leadership, direction, and guidance to healthcare organizations to drive best practice implementation.
There are a variety of programs that rank hospitals based on a wide variety of metrics. Why is it important to use publicly available data?
EP: There’s so much data collected in healthcare from a wide variety of sources. Public data is a particularly reliable source because the data is derived from standard operational definitions that the industry has agreed upon. We can all agree that the data is accurate and valid. Medicare is one of the biggest sources of data and it’s been widely used so I view it as reliable — as a former hospital quality leader,
I know there are checks and balances at Medicare to ensure information is measured on common ground.
How do rankings and award programs encourage hospitals to improve quality of care?
EP: We’re all competitive. When you see someone in your area is doing better than you, the question immediately becomes, “What are they doing that’s different?” Rankings and award programs activate the competitive nature of leaders and can spark conversations about best practices. It makes a leadership team think, “What can we do to improve ourselves?” When I was a hospital executive, we used to take data from programs like 100 Top Hospitals and integrate it into our operational plan. You must be a top performer if you want to thrive in a competitive market.
Why is it important for organizations to be transparent about their ranking methodology?
EP: It is critical for these organizations to be transparent. If the purpose of an awards program is to change the healthcare industry and to inspire leadership to make that change, they need to know what levers to pull to accomplish that. Providing transparency in methodology helps leaders figure out how they should start crafting a performance improvement program and where they need to be measuring performance. When executives understand the methodology behind how award-winning hospitals are ranked, they can take that information back to their organization to pinpoint exactly where they need to improve to reach the same status.
How do you see hospital rankings evolving? More specifically, how has the 100 Top Hospitals program evolved?
EP: Programs are evolving by acknowledging that health systems are providing much more than just inpatient care. As the industry has evolved, providers are not only delivering care in more physical locations, but they’re also providing more telemedicine and home health visits. Whether a visit is virtual or in-person, health systems are tasked with providing high-quality, reliable care at all touchpoints. Organizations that measure performance need to start thinking about measures that more accurately depict our industry and the emerging ways in which we serve patients. Rankings should not only judge whether a hospital is performing well, but also whether that performance is being sustained throughout an organization. The metrics of the 100 Top Hospitals program have historically focused on the inpatient side, so we’re continuing to improve our study by exploring other metrics that will ensure the study stays relevant.