Munson Medical Center in Traverse City, Mich., is on a quality roll. The 368-bed facility this week will receive a top award from the National Committee for Quality Health Care. The flagship hospital of Traverse City-based Munson Healthcare was named one of the HCIA 100 Top Hospitals four out of the past six years, including 1999. Its cardiology program has also made the top 100 list.
The NCQHC, which will present its quality award to Munson officials March 1 during its annual meeting in Washington, cited the hospital's management for demonstrating a "genuine personal commitment" in implementing "outstanding clinical integration."
"All the jurors felt Munson was ahead of the pack in many ways," said Catherine McDermott, president and chief executive officer of the Washington-based NCQHC, an independent, not-for-profit organization that promotes healthcare quality.
Munson's quality evidence `'was repeated again and again, and their work proved effective over a long period," McDermott said. The judges also cited Munson's community outreach programs.
Munson CEO Ralph Cerny said he was stunned when he learned of the award. "Here we are in the woods of northern Michigan, and nobody's ever heard of us," Cerny said. "Some of the most prestigious and well-known hospitals in the country applied. How could we get this award over all these big boys? We're just delighted."
Munson Healthcare owns three hospitals, manages three others and participates in a regional network with a seventh. It posted $21.7 million in net income on 1999 operating revenue of $243.3 million.
Cerny said that Munson worked hard to establish quality awareness and recognition and to reduce adverse medical events. One program worked with physicians and pharmacists to reduce by 85% the medication errors caused by improper transcription. Munson also instituted an intensive-care unit program that reduced ICU stays and the incidence of pneumonia among ventilator patients.
The hospital has partnered with local health agencies to measure the health status of the region it serves. Hospital officials found a higher-than-statewide incidence of heart disease and lower rates of immunizations. "We created a program to address prenatal care and the care of newborn children with an eye to improving immunization rates," which have improved, Cerny said.
Munson Healthcare serves five counties in northwest lower Michigan and the eastern portion of the state's Upper Peninsula. It provides home care in 33 counties and employs 2,800.
Munson traces its history to a state psychiatric hospital, the Northern Michigan Asylum, founded by James Decker Munson, M.D., in 1881. Munson built an acute-care hospital for the community in 1925, which operated as a state hospital until the Michigan Legislature transferred it to the community 50 years later.
The hospital has benefited from the growth of Traverse City, population more than 15,000, the region's economic hub.
"A lot of people are moving here to take jobs in the expanding economy and coming here to retire, " said Cerny, 57, who became president and CEO 10 years ago after serving as chief operating officer.
The nearest tertiary-care centers are in Detroit, a 4 1/2 hours' drive away, and in Grand Rapids, a 3 hours' drive. Munson's closest competitor, 202-bed northern Michigan Hospital in Petoskey, is 70 miles away.
Cerny said Munson used to focus on primary care and little else. "Strategically, we knew there was a need in northern Michigan for specialty care like cancer treatment and open heart surgery and invasive cardiac services," he said. "We wanted to bring some of these services closer to home."
He attributed success to a team effort and to the hospital's location. "Some would call it a paradise," he said. "That's helped us to attract and recruit quality physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals who love the outdoors and activities like skiing, fishing and boating. We have two boards, the hospital's and the corporation's, which have given us great guidance over the years. And people like living and working here, and that makes a big difference."