Richmond, Va. – Virginia ranks as one of the most improved states in the 30th Anniversary edition of the “America’s Health Rankings” annual report issued by the United Health Foundation, rising from 20th among states in the 2018 report to 15th in the 2019 edition of the report that assesses an array of health metrics to determine rankings. The report, recognized as the longest running state-by-state analysis of the nation’s health, cites the Commonwealth as one of three states that “made the largest improvements in the rankings since 2018.” The rankings gain Virginia achieved in the past year is a testament to the work of many stakeholders who are dedicated to improving public health and wellbeing. Virginia’s hospitals and health systems have been among the leaders in this effort and are committed to the goal of making the Commonwealth the healthiest state in the nation.

Scoring in the “America’s Health Rankings” report is based on 35 measures of health across five categories in the rankings model: behaviors, community and environment, policy, clinical care, and health outcomes. All told, 19 data sources including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Census Bureau are consulted to compile the report. According to the 2019 report, Virginia’s rise in the rankings is driven by improvements in the “health outcomes” (declines in health disparity rates) and “behaviors” (improved physical activity among adults) categories. The Commonwealth also earns plaudits for a low violent crime rate, a low percentage of children in poverty, and high immunization coverage among children.

“It is gratifying to see the hard work of Virginia’s health care community reflected in the 2019 ‘America’s Health Rankings.’ The rankings show that the Commonwealth is making headway on the goal of improving health for all Virginians,” said Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA) President and CEO Sean T. Connaughton. “Achieving that goal requires commitment from many stakeholders and partners. Hospitals and health systems have consistently demonstrated a commitment to that effort through action and deeds such as steadfast support for increased health care access, and ongoing work to enhance health care quality, safety, and service in communities across the Commonwealth. More work remains to be done, but these year-over-year gains are proof that progress is being made.”

The 2019 “America’s Health Rankings” report arrives roughly one year into Medicaid expansion in Virginia, which has enabled more than 342,000 Virginians to enroll in low-cost, high-quality health care coverage. Virginia’s hospitals and health systems have been leaders in the work to enhance and expand health care access in the Commonwealth and are investing about $300 million annually to cover state costs associated with coverage expansion. Hospitals are the only health care sector partner in Virginia that have directly invested resources to help fund Medicaid expansion.

Virginia hospitals are also working to improve public wellbeing through campaigns such as the Partnering for a Healthy Virginia initiative – a population health partnership between the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and VHHA focused on addressing key social factors that impact health so every Virginian has an equitable chance at optimal health – efforts to address disparities in maternal health, and the Hospital-based Violence Intervention Program (HVIP). Supported by a grant awarded to the VHHA Foundation through the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), HVIP will be implemented at several Virginia hospitals in regions with the highest incidence of violent crime to help provide social support services for victims of serious violence during hospitalization and post-discharge.

In addition to working to improve health care access and to positively impact communities across Virginia, hospitals are intently focused on enhancing health care quality, safety, service, value, and experience for patients and families. And that work is yielding positive results. Just last month, the Fall 2019 Hospital Safety Grade scores from the Leapfrog Group showed that Virginia is ranked third overall in the nation. The state rankings reflect the number of “A” graded hospitals in a state as measured by Leapfrog, a national health care patient safety ranking organization. Virginia has consistently earned strong scores in the Leapfrog rankings, having moved up from fifth overall among states in the Spring 2018 grading period.

Virginia also earned an “A” grade in the recently released 2019 “State-by-State Report Card on Access to Palliative Care in our Nation’s Hospitals” from the Center to Advance Palliative Care and the National Palliative Care Research Center. Palliative care is specialized treatment to help provide relief and improve quality of life for patients living with a serious illness such as heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cancer, dementia, or Parkinson’s disease.

Earlier this year, more than a dozen Virginia hospitals earned places on the “America’s Best Hospitals for 2019” annual list compiled by Healthgrades, including two hospitals each that made the “America’s 50 Best Hospitals” (top 1 percent of hospitals) and “America’s 100 Best Hospitals” (top 2 percent of hospitals) lists, respectively. The annual “Best Hospitals” list includes 250 hospitals representing the top 5 percent of hospitals in the nation for overall clinical excellence that year, according to Healthgrades. This year’s list was released in February.

Last year, Virginia earned the “2018 HRET HIIN Quality Award” presented by the American Hospital Association (AHA) and the Health Research & Education Trust (HRET). The award recognizes exemplary dedication and leadership in advancing the quality and safety of health care for patients. And in 2017, Virginia was ranked among the top 10 states in an assessment of health care quality as measured by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

About VHHA

The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association is an alliance of 110 hospitals and 27 health delivery systems that develops and advocates for sound health care policy in the Commonwealth. Its mission is to achieve excellence in both health care and health. Its vision is through the power of collaboration to be recognized as a driving force behind making Virginia the healthiest state in the nation. Connect with VHHA through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, and ISupportVirginiaHospitals.com.

Published: December 9, 2019