University earns top grade for safety from hospital rankings organization

University Hospital is again the only Augusta hospital with a top grade for safety from the Leapfrog Group in its biannual rankings.


University received an A grade in the Spring 2017 Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades, one of only 13 hospitals in Georgia to earn a top grade from Leapfrog, which looked at 30 different measures on patient safety. Doctors Hospital of Augusta received a C grade from Leapfrog for the third consecutive ranking and AU Medical Center received a D grade for the second time in a row. Trinity Hospital of Augusta, which University is working to acquire, does not submit data to Leapfrog and was not included in its list.

Leapfrog was founded by large employers and other large purchases of health care as a national non-profit that seeks to drive improvements in patient safety and quality of care through things like its hospital survey and the grading system.

Stretching back to spring 2014, University has received an A grade every time and is one of only two hospitals in Georgia to achieve that, along with Gordon Hospital in Calhoun. University scored better than the national average of 20 out of 30 measures, including a top score on eight process measures, such as computerized entry of physician orders, leadership structure and identifying and fixing risks and hazards.

“That’s all good news for us,” said University CEO Jim Davis. “A lot of that stems from a culture here that quite frankly starts at our board level. We wouldn’t have that physician order entry grade if it were not for the fact that we have Epic (health information system) and that people are expected to use Epic because we believe that is the best thing for patients.”

Epic, for instance, requires physicians to follow best practices or be forced to take extra steps to do something else but the physicians at University and employees have all worked together to help improve the systems as well, he said. The board has shown it is willing to invest in things like an antibiotic stewardship module for Epic that paired with the hospital’s new analyzer that can identify bacteria and what antibiotics work against it in hours instead of days will speed up and improve care, Davis said.

“It’s best for patients,” he said. “We want to make sure that we are using the right drugs for the right bugs, if you will. It allows us to treat patients faster. It allows us to get them well and get home quicker and frees up beds for some of those other process measures.”

It is having those systems in place that is paying off for University, Davis said.

“It doesn’t happen by accident,” he said. “It takes constant diligence to do all of the right things. It has taken a long time to build it but it is working well now.”

AUMC was among Georgia’s large hospitals with academic programs that received a D grade, including Emory University Hospital Midtown and Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. AU and academic medicine officials nationally have complained that rankings like these often do not take into account that these centers care for the sickest and highest-risk patients and provide much more complex care than community hospitals.

“Academic health centers, such as AUMC, provide care to a population, which by definition has a higher mortality, and thus, an unfavorable impact on ranking statistics,” Chief Medical Officer Kevin Dellsperger said in a statement. “Nonetheless, hospitals should be transparent with quality and safety information so that communities know the efforts we are making to improve care.”

The center has added daily safety briefings and a “more robust” program to address hospital-acquired infections, he said. AUMC did score above or tied the national average in five areas, including preventing falls and trauma and having fewer patients acquire a pressure ulcer. Dellsperger said while rankings like Leapfrog can provide important information, patients should also talk to their doctors, friends and family members about their experiences when choosing a provider.

Doctors issued a statement saying, “In recognition of our commitment to deliver high quality care to the Augusta community, we participate in programs like Leapfrog because they are additional tools for us identify what we are doing well and show us opportunities to improve.”

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213




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