University Hospital is once again the only medical center in Augusta to receive a top safety rating from an industry review group.
University received an A in the fall 2017 Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades and was one of only 14 in Georgia to get a top grade. Doctors Hospital of Augusta earned a C grade and AU Medical Center got a D.
University is one of only two Georgia hospitals to get an A grade eight times in a row in the biannual rankings since spring 2014.
Leapfrog Group is a national nonprofit founded by large purchasers of health care to try to improve quality and safety through its grading and ranking system. Many of the measures in the group’s survey are used by other groups, such as the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, to grade quality and safety in the health care industry.
“(It is) something we work on all along,” said Dr. William Farr, University’s chief medical officer.
Part of the low grade at AUMC might have been because it was reporting its data to Leapfrog directly for the first time after previous grades were based on Leapfrog’s pulling publicly available data, said Phillip Coule, the associate chief medical officer.
“Because it was our first time reporting, we think we may have under-reported some of our patient safety measures,” he said.
AU Medical Center plans to take advantage of a correction period that runs through January to fix errors, which might change the grade, although that won’t show up until the spring reporting period, Coule said.
There also was a problem with reporting some data that might have prevented Leapfrog from using data that would have reflected improvements at AUMC, he said.
“We’ve had fairly dramatic improvements in a lot of our patient safety measures during that period of time,” Coule said. For example, falls with injuries were reduced by 73 percent from fiscal years 2015 to 2017, he said.
In a statement, Doctors Hospital said the ranking is “a small part of the quality healthcare equation, and we encourage patients to do their own research before choosing a medical provider. We’re proud of the quality care our staff delivers to our patients every day, and are always looking for ways we can get better.”
Many of the quality area measures where University scored highest are things the hospital was doing long before the rankings began, Farr said.
For instance, University got top marks for having intensivists continuously staff its Intensive Care Units, something the hospital has done since at least 2008, he said. Having specially trained critical care doctors on site can make a difference “so when people are sick in the middle of the night, they have the expertise they need,” Farr said.
Dr. Don Loebl, an intensivist at University, said: “Serious things often happen at the most inconvenient time.”
Treating those patients often requires experience and involves more than just reading the chart, he said. There are situations where “sometimes the objective data is telling you one thing but your gut is telling you something else, and it’s amazing how often times the gut is right in those situations and the patients decline over a period of the next few hours,” Loebl said.
Some hospitals have taken to using telemedicine to help cover their ICUs with experts at remote sites monitoring the situation, but University felt it was important to continue employing the intensivists, Farr said.
“We certainly felt it was worth it for the care of our patients and fulfilling the mission in the community,” he said.
Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213