Christus St. Vincent

Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center was cited by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for excelling in safety of care, among other areas of treatment. Gabriela Campos/The New Mexican

Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe is among six New Mexico hospitals to receive a four-star rating out of five stars in an overall quality report issued by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The results, posted on the Medicare Hospital Compare website, show four stars awarded to Christus St. Vincent, Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque, Lovelace Westside Hospital in Albuquerque, Nor-Lea Hospital District in Lovington, Lincoln County Medical Center in Ruidoso and Presbyterian Española Hospital. “I would say it is the gold standard because it comes from the federal government,” said Christus St. Vincent President and CEO Lillian Montoya. “This has been an every day, every year journey to really focus on improving the patient experience. It didn’t occur overnight.”

The state’s two largest hospitals, University of New Mexico Hospital and Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque, received one and two stars, respectively. No hospital in New Mexico received five stars.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is the federal agency that provides health coverage through Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Health Insurance Marketplace.

The ratings measured more than 50 categories across seven aspects in quality of care, including safety of care, readmission, patient experience, mortality, effectiveness of care, timeliness of care and efficient use of medical imaging.

St. Vincent had never received a four-star rating. The hospital received three stars and two stars in the past two years. The five-star rating system was instituted in 2015.

Montoya said “a lot of little things,” rather than high-profile medical facility improvements, added up to four stars.

“As I shared at our safety huddle this morning, this is a validation,” she said. “We are on the right path. Our goal to get to five stars is entirely possible. I think it’s a deeper focus on the patient experience.”

The report rated St. Vincent above the national average in the safety of care and better than the national average in hospital admissions within 30 days after patients were sent home. Montoya said the hospital called 11,000 inpatient patients with three days of hospital discharge in 2018 to check up on them and calls went to 50,000 emergency room patients within three days.

Montoya credited the rating to including employees at all stages of the improvement process.

“By engaging our people, we were able to redefine what it means to have an excellent patient experience,” Montoya said.

The report did include information about the average time a St. Vincent patient stayed in the emergency department before being admitted as an inpatient. That average was 413 minutes, compared to 302 minutes nationwide. And the average time for a broken-bone patient in the ER to get pain medication was 98 minutes, compared to 49 minutes nationwide, according to the report.

St. Vincent instituted a program to create multidisciplinary teams focused on clinical improvements with a focus on “the right care at the right time,” Montoya said.

“We are doing a checkup with the community to make sure we are making continuous improvements,” she said.