Correction: An earlier version of this article contained a photo illustration of the state of Maine that intended to evoke the American Red Cross logo; instead it resembled the Swiss flag. The photo illustration has been removed.
Reid Wilson is the author of Read In, The Post’s morning tipsheet on politics. If you have a candidate for best state, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The media frenzy over two nurses who contracted the Ebola virus at a Dallas hospital has Americans nervous. Almost two-thirds of Americans said in a Washington Post-ABC News poll this past week that they are concerned about a widespread epidemic in the United States, despite assurances from President Obama and the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that such an outbreak is highly unlikely.
To set us even more on edge, the Ebola virus causes flu-like symptoms, and flu season is around the corner. The flu is a much greater threat than the Ebola virus is likely to become: Every year, the flu virus, which is transmitted much more easily than Ebola, kills tens of thousands of Americans.
When it comes to the facilities that deal with our health, residents in Maine should feel a little less anxious: A recent study found that the state has a higher percentage of top-notch hospitals, as measured by patient safety, than anywhere else in the country.
The Hospital Safety Score, conducted by the Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit funded by top employers and health-care providers that measures hospital performance, ranks more than 2,600 hospitals around the country using 28 metrics, from the number of physicians staffing an intensive-care unit to the types of antibiotics prescribed and patient health after an operation. Those metrics come from groups such as the CDC and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), as well as self-reported data from the hospitals.
Hospitals that scored highest received an A in the group’s grading system, and 14 of Maine’s 19 graded hospitals qualified for top marks. Maine was one of only four states — along with Massachusetts, South Dakota and Illinois — where more than half the graded hospitals received an A.
HealthInsight, another nonprofit, which ranks hospitals based on patient well-being, cast a wider net and found that 13 of Maine’s 37 hospitals scored in the 90th percentile or higher for patient care.
In Maine, it pays to be a better hospital: The state government waives a $250 deductible for employees who use certain top-rated hospitals, said Leah Binder, chief executive of the Leapfrog Group. “The employers in Maine have worked closely with the hospitals to really try to push them to improve their quality, and you’ve really seen results over the past few years,” Binder said. “It’s driven a lot of healthy competition to meet [the state’s] standards.”
In the Leapfrog study, 28 of Virginia’s 64 graded hospitals — 44 percent — snagged an A rating. But in four states and the District, none of the ranked hospitals qualified for the top grade. Maryland’s hospitals were not included in the survey because they do not participate in a CMS inpatient survey.
So remember the basics this flu season: Cover your mouth when you cough. Wash your hands frequently. And move to Maine to find some of the nation’s best hospitals.
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