Health Care

City tops national list for pediatric care access

September 12, 2014
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(As seen on WZZM TV 13) A company that is reinventing the way consumers choose health care providers has recognized Grand Rapids as the best city in the country for pediatric patients to receive excellent medical care in an efficient and accessible manner.

Vitals Index, an organization providing doctor-patient relationship data and surveys, ranked Grand Rapids the No. 1 metropolitan area in the United States when it comes to access to the best pediatric care.

The study analyzed the country’s top 200 metropolitan areas by population size and evaluated their performance based on quality and access criteria, including available pediatricians per-capita for the 18-and-under population, patient reported pediatrician rankings, average wait times and ability to make an appointment.

With the lowest composite score of 70, Grand Rapids was ranked the top city for overall pediatric access to care, followed by Salt Lake City with 84 points. Aurora, Colo., was ranked third with 93 points.

Dr. William L. Bush, pediatrician-in-chief at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and president of medical staff at Spectrum Health Forest Hills Pediatrics, said Grand Rapids has a large number of pediatricians both in private practice and within medical groups.

“That really provides appointment availability to our busy families. It gives them the chance to have appointments around their work schedules. Some offices even have early morning appointments and evening appointments for sick visits,” said Bush. “One of the things that Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital has done is provide a full coverage of pediatric specialists so kids who need not just their primary care pediatricians to see them but also specialists can stay right here in West Michigan.”

With experience in pediatric administration and clinical work, Bush said the ranking by Vitals Index is quite an honor.

“This is such a wonderful family-based community. It is really not surprising to me that those of us who train here in Grand Rapids want to stay, raise our families here, and continue to practice pediatrics for the rest of our lives,” said Bush. “It has really allowed the families to benefit because of the great community we have. We really have a wonderful resource right here at home.”

Dr. David Duffey, chief medical officer at Metro Health, said everyone benefits when children in the community have access to great health care.

“It is vital to the future of our community that kids live in a healthy and safe environment. Probably nothing can be as scary as having a very ill child,” said Duffey. “Grand Rapids is blessed with great providers that care for kids. At Metro Health, providing access to care means having skilled providers in offices that are close to our patients’ homes, schools and work places.”

With board-certified pediatricians, family practitioners, specialists and mid-level providers, Duffey said Metro Health delivers great pediatric care in each of the office locations and at the hospital, and for those patients needing more specialized care, the organization partners with DeVos Children’s Hospital and the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

“This recognition is one more reason Grand Rapids is a great place to live and a great place to raise a family. Having access to high-quality health care helps influence talented people to live, work and start businesses in our community,” said Duffey. “I am thrilled that Metro Health plays a positive role in providing access to high quality pediatric care in our community.”

The remaining top seven cities for pediatric access included: Des Moines, Cincinnati, Rochester (N.Y.), Milwaukee, Lexington, Vancouver, and Sterling Heights, Mich.

The report noted that while large cities were apt to score better in terms of pediatrician-to-patient ratios, the mid-sized metropolitans scored better in other categories of access and quality. Although larger cities may have more pediatricians, patients making an appointment could wait much longer than their smaller metro counterparts.

While the national average wait time for pediatric appointments is approximately 20 minutes, children from some of the worst-ranked cities can wait for more 30 minutes, according to the study. Of the 10 bottom cities, eight were in Texas and California where other factors impact accessibility such as the significant number of immigrants crossing the border straining an already taxed pediatric care system, according to the study.

Vitals Index is headquartered in New Jersey and has locations in New York, Massachusetts and Oklahoma.

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