Watauga Medical Center

The Area Health Education Center wing of the Watauga Medical Center, shown here, houses offices and an auditorium for the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.

BOONE — For the first time, Watauga Medical Center has received a five-star rating, the highest achievement level possible, from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“I am extremely proud of our hospital’s achievement,” stated Kim Bianca, president of Watauga Medical Center. “The five-star rating underscores our team’s commitment to providing top quality patient care.”

WMC is one of 407 hospitals in the United States and one of 13 in North Carolina to receive a five-star quality rating, according to a Feb. 7 statement. More than 4,500 hospitals nationwide were graded.

“Since 2016, our inpatient physicians, care coordinators and clinical integration team have focused on developing organization-wide high reliability programs in these areas and our efforts have produced positive outcomes,” ARHS Senior Vice President for System Advancement Rob Hudspeth said.

The ratings are based on federally mandated hospital data, which includes more than 50 different quality measurements. Those measures include categories such as mortality, re-admission, patient experience, effectiveness of care, timeliness of care and effective use of medical imaging. Hudspeth said that the standards to receive a five-star rating are “rigorous.”

Hospitals report data to CMS, which is the federal agency that runs the Medicare and Medicaid programs, through the Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting Program and the Hospital Outpatient Quality Reporting Program.

Previously in August 2016, Watauga Medical Center received three stars for the first time and was bumped up to four stars in March 2019.

“Achieving five stars for quality is a direct reflection of our team’s dedication to excellence,” said Chuck Mantooth, president and CEO of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, which operates Watauga Medical Center. “This recognition underscores our commitment to consistently providing exceptional patient care to our community each and every day.”

According to Hudspeth, the main reasons for the increased rating are reductions in hospital readmissions; mortalities from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, stroke and pneumonia; orthopedic surgery complications, specifically mentioning top hip and total knee replacements; and infections such as catheter-associated urinary tract infections and clostridium difficile.

In the details of the rankings for Watauga Medical Center, safety of care, readmission and efficient use of medical imaging were above the national average. Mortality, patient experience, effectiveness of care and timeliness of care were noted as being at the national average. A summary of patient surveys about staff communication, cleanliness, being quiet at night and more for Watauga Medical Center was rated three out of five stars, with most respondent percentages hovering around national and state averages.

The other 12 hospitals in North Carolina that received a five-star ranking from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services were Atrium Health Kings Mountain, Atrium Health Lincoln, Memorial Mission Hospital and Surgery Center in Asheville, Northern Hospital of Surry County in Mt. Airy, AdventHealth Hendersonville, Duke Raleigh Hospital, the Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital in Greensboro, UNC REX Hospital in Raleigh, Duke Regional Hospital in Durham, Novant Health Matthews Medical Center, Davie Medical Center in Mocksville and Vidant Bertie Hospital in Windsor.

For more information about the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services star ratings, visit www.medicare.gov/hospitalcompare/Data/Hospital-overall-ratings-calculation.html.

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