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May 9, 2013

Maine: first in hospital safety

By MATT HONGOLTZ-HETLING Morning Sentinel

A new report from a hospital watchdog group ranks Maine first in the nation for hospital safety.

In the report released Wednesday by Leapfrog, 80 percent of Maine's hospitals earned A's for safety, a larger percentage than in any other state. Among more than 2,500 hospitals across the country that received grades, only 31 percent got A's.

Of the 20 Maine hospitals that were ranked, 16 got A's, three got B's, and one -- York Hospital of Maine -- received a C.

Leapfrog, a nonprofit group supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, says it works to drive down health care costs by identifying avoidable mistakes.

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that one in four Medicare patients leaves the hospital with medical problems they didn't have when they entered. Hospital errors and injuries cause 180,000 deaths each year, according to Leapfrog.

Twice a year, Leapfrog grades hospitals based on 26 measures of safety, including whether doctors use computer systems to enter their orders, whether a system identifies and address risks, and patient outcomes such as preventable blood infections.

The report says Maine's health care providers are less likely to do harm than their counterparts around the country.

Maine Medical Center in Portland got a B grade from Leapfrog. Dr. Doug Salvador, the hospital's vice president of quality and patient safety, said there is no cause for concern.

"We're in pretty good company," Salvador said, referring to B's given to hospitals such as Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut.

Maine Medical Center sees more patients and does more complex surgeries than smaller community hospitals, factors that may have contributed to the lower grade, Salvador said.

"I think it has more to do with types of procedures we do than anything else," he said.

Salvador said Maine Medical Center is always trying to improve, and in many areas has gotten better.

For instance, the hospital's fall and trauma ranking, which was based on data gathered from 2009 to 2011, has improved significantly, he said.

"Can we do better? Of course we can. We are a safe hospital and we are proud of our patient safety record," Salvador said.

Maine Medical Center sees more than 30,000 patients a year in the hospital and more than 90,000 patients a year in its emergency room.

Leapfrog is supported by its members, large health care purchasers, including large employers such as Toyota and the University of Michigan, and groups such as the Maine Health Management Coalition. In all, member groups buy health care plans for 34 million Americans.

Leapfrog provides services to hospitals, including the surveys that form the basis of the grades and reports on industry benchmarks.

The grades are based on numeric scores that use data from performance measures of various groups, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The report shows a big drop between Maine and second-ranked Massachusetts, where 70 percent of hospitals received A's, and third-ranked Minnesota, where 46 percent received a top grade.

At the bottom of the rankings are Idaho, Nevada, Kansas and Oregon, with 10 percent each, just ahead of West Virginia, which had 8 percent, and New Mexico, which ranked last with 7 percent. 

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be contacted at 861-9287 or at:

mhhetling@centralmaine.com





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