The recent news that Maine hospitals once again received the top spot in the Leapfrog Group’s Hospital Safety Scores as the state with the highest percentage of A’s, should come as no surprise to anyone who follows health care in the state.

For well over a decade, Maine hospitals have been committed to improving the health care services they provide, as well as publicly reporting on quality of care measures. As a result, the quality of care Maine hospitals provides is the best in the nation.

That’s not just hyperbole. Maine hospitals’ rank is No. 1 on 58 quality measures when compared to other states’ scores on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Hospital Compare website. We’ve held that rank since 2012.

Additionally, in 2012, 2013 and 2014, Maine hospitals ranked best in the country according to a report from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which used many of the same measures from Hospital Compare, along with claims and other data not posted by CMS.

Quality, combined with improving patients’ experience of care, is one-third of the Triple Aim health care reform framework developed by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Cambridge, Mass. The other two goals are improving population health and reducing the per capita cost of health care. Maine hospitals are working hard to address all three goals of the Triple Aim, and publicly report annually about their progress toward achieving them.

In the area of population health, all of Maine’s hospitals and health systems partner with other stakeholders on a community health needs assessment every three years. They consider these results in their strategic planning and when linking their strategic goals to local community needs. Often, in order to meet the population health needs of their communities, hospitals initiate programs that go beyond the health care services that hospitals typically have provided in the past.

For example, several Maine hospitals have built walking trails in their communities. Others host farmer’s markets. The Maine Hospital Association, along with many individual hospitals, is partnering with Let’s Go!, an award-winning obesity prevention program of The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center, to help increase healthy eating and active living wherever kids live, learn, work and play.

Maine hospitals also are working to reduce the per capita cost of health care. Hospitals are collaborating with interested partners to help move our health care system from one that rewards high-volume services to one that rewards high-quality, lower-cost services and healthy communities.

For instance, all Maine hospitals voluntarily collaborated with MaineCare, Maine’s Medicaid program, to reduce unnecessary use of hospital emergency rooms through interventions such as helping patients find a primary care provider or connecting with supportive community services. This initiative alone saved the state’s Medicaid program $10 million by reducing the number of inappropriate visits to hospital emergency rooms.

Because Maine hospitals provide such high-quality care and population health services, we have incentive to create a payment system that pays for quality and keeping people well, instead of the current system that reimburses more for illness than for health. Insurance companies, employers, and state and federal regulators are moving to tie payments to quality care and population health services, but not quickly enough in our opinion.

While we are proud of the high-quality services that our hospitals provide, we are mindful of the fact that we can’t rest on our laurels. We continue to improve care and increase our efficiency so that Maine’s hospitals continue to be the best in the nation, achieve the goals of the Triple Aim and provide cost-effective care to our patients that is second to none. We are the best and are getting better.

James Donovan, president and CEO of LincolnHealth in Damariscotta, is chairman of the Maine Hospital Association board of directors.

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