Lancaster. Pa., near the top in nationwide health-care ratings

    Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, ranks near the top in the country for overall health care, according to a new national study.

    Comparing all 306 community health-care systems in the U.S., The Commonwealth Fund (a New York City-based research nonprofit) put the Lancaster area at number 12.

    The same study ranked the Philadelphia area 91st, South Jersey 129th and Northern Delaware 83rd.

    Commonwealth Fund vice president Cathy Schoen hopes that residents and medical officials use the data to rethink care strategies.

    “It’s important that we all know our starting point, and now we can look whether we’re improving or not,” Schoen said.

    The study is the first of its kind to compare health-care systems across the nation at a community level, rather than on a state level. One of the key findings was, in fact, that state-by-state comparisons aren’t very helpful because the quality of health-care systems differs so widely within the states.

    Commonwealth examined 43 indicators spanning four dimensions of health-system performance: access, prevention and treatment, costs and potentially avoidable hospital use, and health outcomes.

    To gather data, researchers tracked medical spending, compiled Medicare and mortality records, examined patient exit interviews, as well as the mandatory patient reports filed by hospitals and nursing homes.

    Nationally, communities in New England and the Upper Midwest scored highest. Those in the South fared worst.

    Among the nation’s largest metropolitan areas, Boston, Minneapolis/St. Paul, San Francisco, and Seattle all scored near the top for overall health system performance.

    Philadelphia and South Jersey scored high for access to coverage, as well as for prevention and treatment measures. Both lagged in efforts to help patients avoid potentially unnecessary hospital visits.

    The Lancaster area scored at the top in all categories measured.

    The Commonwealth Fund maintains, though, that all areas still have room for much improvement.

    “Even if you think that you have the best health-care system in the world right in your community,” Scheon said. “Maybe not, maybe it could be doing better, and we should all be demanding more.”

    Even in areas with the highest ratings, the study found that too few adults 50 and older utilize preventive care services such as screenings for cancer.

    The full report can be found at Commonwealth Fund.

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