East Georgia Regional Medical Center has not recently achieved an ‘A’ on the Leapfrog Group’s hospital safety ratings, but after rising from a ‘C’ in the fall of 2018 to a ‘B’ last spring, the Statesboro hospital held onto that ‘B’ this fall.
Meanwhile, fewer Georgia hospitals garnered A’s in this fall’s report. Leapfrog, a nonprofit, patient safety organization founded by large employers, bases the ratings on a variety of measures in five general areas of concern: infections; problems with surgery; practices to prevent errors; other safety problems and “doctors, nurses and hospital staff.”
“We’re pleased to be a ‘B,’ but our goal is to be an ‘A,’ of course,” said East Georgia Regional Medical Center CEO Stephen Pennington. “We’re monitoring that. It’s hard when you think about we’re a community hospital, and then there are academic hospitals, to try to have one system that fits for everybody is sort of difficult.”
Of more than 2,600 hospitals nationwide rated by Leapfrog, 33% received an “A,” 25% a “B,” 34% a “C,” 8% a “D,” Georgia Health News reported. Fewer than 1% of hospitals – and no hospitals in Georgia – received an “F” grade.
Among Georgia hospitals, the portion that received an “A” rating this fall slipped to one hospital in four now, from one in three last spring. With this change, Georgia fell from 15th to 34th among the states in its percentage of hospitals getting the top rating, Georgia Health News noted.
Region’s scores mixed
At Leapfrog’s own website, www.hospitalsafetygrade.org, the list of hospitals is searchable by state, with “sort by distance” an option. The nearest hospital with an “A” rating appears to be Fairview Park Hospital in Dublin.
Some of the other fall 2019 grades in the region are surprising. Augusta University Medical Center got a “C.” But University Hospital and Doctors Hospital, also in Augusta, each garnered a “B.”
In Savannah, Candler Hospital received a “D,” and St. Joseph’s Hospital a “B,” with these being part of the same network of hospitals. Memorial Health University Medical Center, also in Savannah, got a “C,” as did Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia.
‘To be the best’
Back at East Georgia Regional Medical Center, Pennington wasn’t making any comparisons to other hospitals, but he talked about a higher goal than just moving from a “B” to an “A.”
“Quite simply, my goal is, I want to be the best community hospital in the country,” he said. “That’s what we’ve set as our goal, and that’s what our board of directors has also set as our goal here, so we do look at the Leapfrog, but we track a lot of indicators across our organization.”
Pennington arrived as CEO of the Statesboro hospital, which is licensed for 149 in-patient beds and has approximately 780 employees, in July. He brings 20 years of experience with Community Health Systems at other locations. CHS is East Georgia Regional Medical Center’s parent company, with local physicians as minority owners.
Lately, Pennington has been holding a lot of well-attended employee forums, he said, and also making himself visible around the hospital as the leadership promotes an “always” culture. This means that patients and their families should always have the best experience possible, regardless of the day of the week or the hour of the day.
“That’s the challenge, how can you always be on your game. It’s not hard to be good most of the time,” Pennington said. “But always, that’s how you go from a ‘B’ to an ‘A,’ I think, in simple terms.”
But he says the hospital is “obsessed with safety” and has multiple indicators trending in positive directions, including employee turnover trending downward and patient satisfaction scores trending upward. Patient satisfaction is even a part of the Leapfrog measure.
Leapfrog gave East Georgia Regional a perfect score, 120, in “effective leadership to prevent errors.”
“We’ve done a lot around leadership involvement in safety,” said EGRMC Chief Quality Officer Beth Simmons, RN. “We have a daily safety huddle where every department director participates in that huddle. We talk about the last 24 hours and then the upcoming 24 hours to make sure that everybody is on the same page and so that we can take that message back to our staff.”
Simmons, who has worked 10 years in the hospital, including five years as a nurse on the night shift, is now full-time CQO. She has developed a Patient Safety Committee including leadership, doctors and safety coaches. “Safety coach” is a special responsibility assigned to a regular employee, such as a nurse, who has other duties.
“We have about 40 safety coaches from different departments all over the hospital that are on the lookout, and they do some coaching and some rewarding for when we do things well,” Simmons said.
The committee meets once a month, its meetings serving as open forums where other employees can bring concerns.
Into the details
For some Leapfrog indicators, a low score is the best score. For example, EGRMC received a perfect score of zero for “no dangerous objects left in patient,” under the category “problems with surgery.”
It received a few unfavorable scores, including in an indicator for “serious breathing problems.”
“Those are metrics that we look at across the hospital, for any reason, and it could be anything,” Simmons said. “The patient could have come in like that sometimes, and it’s very patient-specific, and with that metric, we had a very low number of patients that were affected, but the number of patients we looked at was also very low.”
Pennington noted that the hospital, as a safety measure beyond its walls, is now seeking to make sure patients leave with a follow-up appointment.
“We’re trying to make sure that when they leave the hospital they get an appointment scheduled timely with their primary care physician so they don’t come back a readmission,” he said.