On Thursday, September 26, Missoula's St. Patrick Hospital was one of seven in Montana to receive a quality award from Mountain-Pacific Quality Health Foundation.

Pam Estill is manager of the Healthcare Quality Improvement Department at Providence St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, and she explained that there is exact criteria involved in being selected for the award.

"The joint commission has specific patient-care measures that need to be met, and historically, St. Pat's has done very well on these measures," Estill said. "These are best practices for patients with heart attacks, heart failure and stroke. They look at our scores and rate us against other hospitals. In addition, they look at practices that we put in place in the hospital, and one example is hand hygiene. Do we empower the patient to ask us to wash our hands? Those are just some of the things they are looking at."

At the awards convention in Billings, Estill said many discussions took place among hospital administrators about the upcoming implementation of the Affordable Care Act. She said hospitals will have to compete to receive the highest level of compensation from sources such as Medicare and Medicaid.

"Medicare reimburses at a certain rate for hospitals according to their performance, and those metrics have been set" Estill said. "A hospital, if they want full reimbursement, they need to perform at a certain level to get that reimbursement from Medicare. Also, patients will be shopping for healthcare more than before, in that they will have more choices as to where to receive their care. Hospitals are going to be focusing less on how many patients they can get into the hospital, but how we can keep patients out of the hospital, through preventative measures, and by managing their chronic conditions."

Pam Estill, manager of the Healthcare Quality Improvement Department at Providence St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula: