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Wichita-area hospitals score mixed grades in national group’s safety review

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, June 13, 2012, at 5:02 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, June 13, 2012, at 5:04 p.m.

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Data for individual hospitals can be found at the Leapfrog website: hospitalsafetyscore.org

A national group representing large employers and organizations that purchase health benefits has begun grading hospitals for patient safety, and its grades for Wichita-area hospitals are mixed.

The Leapfrog Group’s Hospital Safety Score program assigned a B grade to Wesley Medical Center in Wichita and Susan B. Allen Memorial Hospital in El Dorado, and gave C’s to Via Christi Hospitals Wichita, Newton Medical Center and Kansas Medical Center in Andover. It did not have grades for smaller hospitals or specialty hospitals in Wichita, including Kansas Heart Hospital, Galichia Heart Hospital and Kansas Spine Hospital.

Leapfrog said the purpose of the grading system is to bring attention to errors that compromise patient safety.

Area hospital officials’ opinions are predictably as mixed as the results for their facilities. Some think the Hospital Safety Score is a positive development in terms of the push for greater transparency and for helping employers and consumers assess quality care. But others said the Leapfrog program is just one of several groups, agencies and companies measuring hospitals’ quality of care and that no one group should have more weight with its evaluation than another.

They also point to the fact that some of the data Leapfrog uses is self-reported through the annual Leapfrog Hospital Survey. Other data, hospital officials said, is more than a year old, culled from information previously collected by government agencies such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

But scoring hospitals on their quality of care and patient safety measures is a new and permanent reality, and evaluations such as Leapfrog can help speed up hospitals’ push to improve.

“I would be hesitant to say it makes one hospital better than another, but it does give us a benchmark” said Ron Whiting, executive director of the Wichita Business Coalition on Health Care. “We should pay attention to these things and use them as a way to have a conversation about the activities and demonstrated commitment our providers have to patient care.”

In all, Leapfrog graded 37 hospitals in Kansas, and gave an A grade to six of them: Ransom Memorial Hospital in Ottawa, Shawnee Mission Medical Center, Miami County Medical Center, Lawrence Memorial Hospital, Overland Park Medical Center and St. Luke’s South Hospital in Overland Park. Ten others received B’s, 18 received C’s and three received a “score pending.” None received a D or an F, which Leapfrog said is the range of its scoring system.

Leapfrog used 26 measures to come up with its composite grade. Those measures include a range of activities, including whether a hospital has 24-hour intensivist coverage in its intensive care units from a physician with specialized training in critical care medicine; the number of patient falls; and whether a hospital gives pre- and post-operative antibiotics in a timely manner.

Officials at Via Christi, Newton Medical Center, Wesley and Kansas Medical Center all said they were highly committed to patient safety and continuously improving their processes. But some said they are inundated by organizations and groups that collect, analyze and score patient safety and quality-care data.

“There are so many rating groups out there that you can excel in one and not excel in the other,” said Steven Kelly, CEO of Newton Medical Center. “Sometimes it’s overwhelming the amount of data we are submitting everywhere.”

Steve Nesbit, chief medical officer for Via Christi Health Wichita Hospitals, said he understands the measures the Leapfrog scoring system uses, but he is not clear on how it calculated the composite letter grade.

“We don’t dispute the elements and components of the score,” Nesbit said. “It’s a new composite we just don’t understand.”

Nonetheless, he and Al Miller, executive director for quality and process improvement for Via Christi Health Wichita Hospitals, said their goal is to improve upon the letter grade Leapfrog assigned to Via Christi.

Nesbit said that if Leapfrog’s data was from today rather than more than a year ago, Via Christi’s grade would be higher. He said he bases that opinion on the fact that he and Miller frequently monitor data on the same measures Leapfrog uses, and that Via Christi uses the data to improve patients’ care and safety measures.

Joann Paul, Wesley’s director of quality and infection prevention, said that even though her hospital was graded a B, the goal would be to improve that grade.

“Are we looking to go to an A? Absolutely,” she said.

Reach Jerry Siebenmark at 316-268-6576 or jsiebenmark@wichitaeagle.com.

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