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IBM Watson Health Finds Nation's Top-Performing Health Systems Deliver More Consistent Care Across Member Hospitals

Watson Health 15 Top Health Systems Study, Formerly Truven Health Analytics 15 Top Health Systems, Measures Hospital Alignment, Identifies Healthcare Organizations Delivering Better Outcomes at Lower Cost
Apr 22, 2018

ANN ARBOR, Mich, April 22, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- IBM Watson Health™ (NYSE: IBM) today published its 15 Top Health Systems annual study identifying top-performing health systems in the U.S. based on overall organizational performance. Formerly known as the Truven Health Analytics® 15 Top Health Systems, this study spotlights its best-performing health systems in the U.S., based on a balanced scorecard of measures derived from publicly available clinical, operational, and patient satisfaction data. It has been conducted annually since 2008.

This year's study finds that of those health systems surveyed, the country's top-performing health systems are achieving better clinical and operational performance through more consistent care among member hospitals. The 2018 Watson Health 15 Top Health Systems study features a quantitative measure of member hospital alignment, which evaluates the consistency of clinical and operational performance among the individual hospitals within each health system. It finds a small but discernable difference in the level of individual hospital alignment within top-performing health systems than is found in peer group health systems. Specifically, the annual volatility in key performance measures is 1.9 percentage points lower among the member hospitals of winning health systems than it is among peer group health system members.

The trend of lower overall variability, or volatility, within individual member hospital performance metrics among winning health systems is statistically significant over a five-year period.

"Intuitively, many healthcare professionals have believed for years that individual hospital alignment is a key to health system success, but alignment has been difficult to quantify. Put simply, we wanted to determine how well health systems are achieving the goal of delivering a consistent patient experience in each of their facilities, and start benchmarking that performance each year," said Jean Chenoweth, Senior Program Director, 100 Top Hospitals Programs, IBM Watson Health. "Based on our data, it is clear that better hospital alignment does indeed play a role in overall health system performance, and it is something we will be investigating further."

Following were the key performance measures on which 15 Top Health Systems showed the most significant outperformance versus non-winning peer group health systems:

  • Fewer Deaths: Overall, 15 Top Health Systems winners had 14.6 percent fewer in-hospital deaths than non-winning peer group health systems.
  • Fewer Complications and Infections: Patients at winning health systems experienced 17.3 percent fewer complications and 16.2 percent fewer healthcare-associated infections than peer group health systems.
  • Shorter Length of Stay: Winning health systems had a median severity-adjusted length of stay that was nearly one half-day shorter (0.4) than peers.
  • Shorter Emergency Department Wait Times: Overall, winning health systems delivered median emergency department wait times that were 40 minutes shorter per patient than those of peer group health systems.
  • Lower Spend: Combined in-hospital and post-discharge costs were 5.6 percent lower per episode in winning health systems.
  • Higher Patient Satisfaction: Overall hospital experience, as measured by the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), was rated 2.3 percent higher for winning health systems than peer group health systems.

The Watson Health 15 Top Health Systems study evaluates health system performance across nine clinical and operational performance benchmarks: risk-adjusted inpatient mortality index, risk-adjusted complications index, mean healthcare-associated infection index, mean 30-day risk-adjusted mortality rate, mean 30-day risk-adjusted readmission rate, severity-adjusted length of stay, mean emergency department throughput, Medicare spend per beneficiary index and HCAHPS score.

Extrapolating the results of this year's study, if all Medicare inpatients were similarly situated and received the same level of care as those treated in the award-winning facilities:

  • More than 60,000 additional lives could be saved;
  • More than 31,000 additional patients could be complication-free;
  • Healthcare-associated infections would be reduced by 16%; and
  • Patients would spend 40 minutes less time in hospital emergency rooms per visit.

To conduct the 100 Top Hospitals study, IBM Watson Health researchers evaluated 338 health systems and 2,422 health system member hospitals. All research was based on the following public data sets: Medicare cost reports, Medicare Provider Analysis and Review (MEDPAR) data, and Healthcare Associated Infections (HAIs) and patient satisfaction data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Hospital Compare website. Hospitals do not apply for awards, and winners do not pay to market this honor.

For more information, visit

Here are the winning health systems, by category:

Large Health Systems

Mayo Foundation – Rochester, MN
Mercy – Chesterfield, MO
Sentara Healthcare – Norfolk, VA
St. Luke's Health System – Boise, ID
UCHealth – Aurora, CO

Medium Health Systems

Aspirus Network – Wausau, WI
HealthPartners – Bloomington, MN
Mercy Health, Cincinnati – Cincinnati, OH
Mission Health – Asheville, NC
TriHealth – Cincinnati, OH

Small Health Systems

Asante – Medford, OR
CHI St. Joseph Health – Bryan, TX
Maury Regional Health – Columbia, TN
Roper St. Francis Healthcare – Charleston, SC
UPMC Susquehanna Health System – Williamsport, PA

About the IBM Watson Health 100 Top Hospitals® Program

The IBM Watson Health 100 Top Hospitals, formerly the Truven Health Analytics 100 Top Hospitals, program uses independent and objective research to analyze hospital and health system performance. Organizations do not apply or pay for this honor or pay to promote their award. Award-winning hospitals and health systems prove that better care is possible and provide an example for other organizations to follow across the industry. The 100 Top Hospitals award winners demonstrate top performance on both how patients are cared for under clinical measures and how the hospital performs as an efficient business. 100 Top Hospitals is a registered trademark of Truven Health Analytics, part of the IBM Watson Health business. Visit for more information.

About IBM Watson Health

Watson Health is a business unit of IBM that is dedicated to the development and implementation of cognitive and data-driven technologies to advance health. Watson Health technologies are tackling a wide range of the world's biggest healthcare challenges including cancer, diabetes, drug discovery and more. Learn more at


Catherine Afarian

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