Augusta's University Hospital improves safety ranking

Computer system used to track medicines lifts grade



If Augusta’s hospitals were in school, University Hospital would be at the top of the class in safety, according to one group’s rankings.

The Leapfrog Group released its Hospital Safety Score today for more than 2,500 acute care hospitals in the U.S., assigning them a letter grade based on 28 different safety processes and outcome measures, such as hospital-acquired infections.

University got an “A” in the interim report after getting a “C” in October in the previous ranking. Doctors Hospital and Georgia Regents Medical Center maintained their “C” grades. Trinity Hospital of Augusta was not included in the rankings because of problems transmitting its data, spokeswoman Rachel Covar said.

Doctors Hospital noted in a statement that there are many groups grading or rating hospitals and pointed to its ranking as a Top Performer by the Joint Com­mis­sion last year, as was Trin­ity. Georgia Regents issued a statement saying that the Leapfrog ranking was “one of many tools patients may use when making health care decisions,” and advised patients to use many sources, including physicians and family, when choosing a provider.

A big reason University’s grade improved was the validation of its computerized prescriber order entry system in its Epic information technology system, which passed a live test by a Leapfrog vendor in December to see if it could flag medications that should not be taken together or that would be contradicted by a patient’s lab tests, said Ed Burr, the senior vice president for legal affairs and compliance officer for University.

University got a 5 for its computerized prescription service in October but got the full 100 points after the validation, he said.

“Epic was the big driver in this,” Burr said.

Improvement in that area, often referred to by its acronym CPOE, is part of a national trend that Leapfrog was pleased to see, said Missy Danforth, the senior director for hospital ratings at Leapfrog.

“We’ve seen a big uptick in hospitals’ performance on the CPOE measure,” she said.
University was one of 17 in Georgia to earn an A out of 64 hospitals ranked, and the state came in 24th in the percentage of hospitals that got the top ranking. Overall, the number of A hospitals declined from 813 in the previous ranking to 804 in the current review.

“It’s not getting easier to get into that club, it is getting harder,” Burr said.

The rankings do not include specialty or Critical Access Hospitals, and many smaller hospitals that do not have a large intensive care unit will not have enough data in the categories used in the ranking and thus are not included, Danforth said.

The rankings are important because many unintended errors still occur daily in U.S. hospitals and harm patients, said Leapfrog CEO Leah Binder. She pointed to a recent New England Journal of Medicine estimate that 1 in 25 patients acquires an infection while in the hospital.

“That’s just one more reason that more than 1,000 people die every day from preventable medical errors,” Binder said.

That also drives up costs, which are passed on to the payers. Leapfrog works with 40 different business coalitions to look at these preventable errors and their costs and provide transparency about how hospitals perform, Binder said.

“They’re interested in what are the things that drive the cost of health care and I think they have made a good bet that it is avoidable complications,” Burr said.


Three groups rating Georgia in various health areas will release their rankings this week.

In the Leapfrog Group’s listing of hospitals earning top marks for safety, the state came in 24th.