The importance of patient safety is a given at every hospital in the United States. At East Georgia Regional Medical Center, however, patient safety is the heartbeat of the hospital. Patient safety is at the forefront of every action, procedure and decision made by not only the medical staff, but every member of East Georgia's entire staff.
"Our focus on safety and quality today is greater than it ever has been," said Bob Bigley, president and CEO of East Georgia Regional. "While that has always been part of our mission, the emphasis on patient safety and ensuring we always follow the proper procedures is at its highest level in the 10 years I've been here."
And Bigley has a recent report from an independent organization to back up his assertion. The Leapfrog Group, a non-profit that promotes improvements in health care safety by giving patients real data about hospitals, just released its Hospital Safety Score report and East Georgia Regional Medical Center received an A.
The report graded more than 2,500 hospitals in the nation on quality and safety metrics such as error prevention and infection rates and East Georgia was one of 782 hospitals to receive an A. Also, the Medical Center was one of 19 "A" hospitals out of the 69 in Georgia that participated in the Leapfrog study, which is considered the most respected and comprehensive hospital safety survey in the industry.
"We certainly are proud of the score," Bigley said. "It demonstrates our commitment to safety and quality. That safety is a daily focus. Every meeting we have, safety is discussed. We constantly review the processes and put safety checks in everything we do. We have an environment of transparency where everyone can question anything when it comes to patient safety."
Consistent staff training about safety procedures and constant vigilance to ensure procedures are followed without exception are part of the reason East Georgia earned its "A" rating, said Rhonda Jones, who has been quality director at the Statesboro hospital for the past eight years.
"My staff and I make rounds every day in the hospital to verify and validate the safety processes are functioning the way they are designed to ensure good outcomes for our patients and staff," Jones said. "Something as simple as hand hygiene is a process that most patients are aware of when providing care. Washing your hands when you enter a room. When you exit a room. It is a simple procedure that everyone follows because we emphasize the importance over and over."
The hospital reports infections to the Federal Centers for Disease Control, which is required for all hospitals of EGRMC's size. One of the areas of East Georgia's improvement in patient safety, perhaps the most important, is the Medical Center's reduction in patient infection rates.
"Every hospital has infections, but our rate of infections is significantly lower in all areas compared to the national averages," Bigley said.
So far in 2015, East Georgia has reported zero cases of patient infections in four key areas: surgical site infections, colon surgical site infections, hysterectomy surgical site infections and catheter associated blood stream infections. Only one case of central line associated blood stream infection was reported.
"We're on a path to make sure we're a highly reliable organization in using some of the techniques that other industries for years have used," Bigley said. "Like the airline industry with their double checks. Airline crashes are very rare and a good part of the reason for that is in the cockpit prior to takeoff, pilots go through a check off sheet. We do that very same thing in the (operating room) now. Nobody does anything until we go through all these checkoffs to ensure all proper procedures are in place."
Another key area where East Georgia has significantly improved procedures is the dispensing of patient medications. Historically, one of the most vulnerable areas for all hospital errors is in patients getting the wrong medication.
"In the past, the doctor would hand write an order," Bigley said. "The pharmacy would send the medication to the floor. It was an all manual process. Now, the physician puts the medication order in the computer, eliminating handwriting transcription errors. Then it is double-checked by the pharmacy before it is dispensed for any possible allergy or other drug interaction issues and then it is dispensed to an automated system on the patient floor. It makes it very, very difficult for a nurse to dispense the wrong medication. The patient's wrist band also has a bar code tied to the medication, which the nurse scans to ensure yet again the medicine is correct."
In all areas of patient safety, Bigley said communication is key.
This article is sponsored by East Georgia Regional Medical Center. You can reach the Medical Center by calling (912) 486-1000. East Georgia Regional Medical Center is directly or indirectly owned by a partnership that proudly includes physician owners, including certain members of the hospital's medical staff.