- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital recently received the 2012 HealthGrades Patient Safety Excellence Award, ranking it among the top 5 percent in the nation.
In a study released May 22 by HealthGrades, MedStar St. Mary’s is one of 263 hospitals in the country to receive the award, and one of five in Maryland.
Award recipients were chosen after analysis of about 40 million hospitalization records dating from 2008 to 2010 from 5,000 hospitals nationwide that participate in the Medicare program. Participation in the study was not voluntary, and hospitals could not opt out of the analysis.
The other hospitals in Maryland to make the list were Carroll Hospital Center in Westminster; Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Baltimore; Saint Joseph Medical Center in Towson; and Union Hospital in Elkton.
“This honor is one of the most important, I feel, as it’s something that we owe our community,” said hospital Vice President Joan Gelrud. “We owe our community a way to benchmark us and know that they are going to be safe; that we are doing the right thing for the right patient all the time.
“The expectation is that we’re going to do the right thing by you, but how can you be sure?” she added. “But with this award, there’s this external entity demonstrating our excellence. It’s great. How else can you know you can count on us?”
Gelrud said the hospital has certain procedures staff must comply with “across the board, without fail,” including standard processes such as washing hands before and after meeting with patients; bicoding medications to eliminate the possibility of giving patients the wrong medication or improper dosage; updating electronic medical records; and using patient identifiers such as name and birth date upon each interaction with patients.
“With anything we’re going to do, we always make sure to ask our patients their name and birth date before anything else,” Gelrud said. “Even if we come into their room 10 times in 20 minutes, we always make sure to check that information first to avoid giving them the wrong medication, the wrong treatment, and so on.
“The electronic medical record in and of itself, too, is huge for patient safety because everything is legible, everything is timed, and all allergies and things like that are accurately documented, which greatly reduces the errors seen before with different staff members’ handwriting,” she added. “You can’t even use abbreviations in our system, so nothing can be misconstrued.”
“Basically, we try to use standardization across multiple disciplines to reduce errors,“ said Dr. Stephen Michaels, medical affairs vice president. “We do that continuously so that we can both eliminate these errors and improve our overall efficiency.”
The hospital also has its own patient safety council, originally formed in 2006.
“The council is comprised of front-line staff from all across the hospital, and these representatives are champions of patient safety,” Gelrud said. “The council members talk with the folks in their departments and try to find areas in which we can improve, and when errors are reported or suggestions made, we then create an action plan to implement ways in which to improve.”
The study found that Medicare patients at the awarded hospitals were almost 48 percent less likely to experience one of 13 preventable safety events compared to those facilities in the bottom 5 percent in the nation. These safety events include death in procedures where mortality is usually very low; pressure or bed sores acquired in the hospital; death following a serious complication after surgery; foreign objects left in bodies during procedures; collapsed lungs due to procedures or surgeries in or around a patient’s chest; catheter-related bloodstream infections acquired at the hospital; hip fractures following surgeries; hemorrhages or hematomas resulting from procedures or surgeries; electrolyte and fluid imbalances following surgeries; respiratory failure following surgeries; deep blood clots in lungs or legs following surgeries; sepsis following surgeries; and breakdowns of abdominal incision sites.
“It’s a real honor to be part of an organization that really puts the patient first,” Michaels said. “It’s a testament to the teamwork that we have at MedStar St. Mary’s between our associates and our medical staff and shows what can be achieved through open communication and a punitive-free error reporting system.”
“I believe in health care we have to be passionate about safety — we have to live and breathe it every day, every one of us,” Gelrud said. “We owe that to our community.”
For more information
For more information on the HealthGrades Patient Safety Excellence Award and the ratings methodology, visit HealthGrades.com.