HealthAlliance Hospital Earns Top Rating for Safety in Mass.

Jul 12, 2012 - 

Article by Sentinel & Enterprise
Written by Jack Minch

LEOMINSTER -- HealthAlliance Hospital had the highest safety score for patient care of any hospital in the state and was not far off the pace for the highest score in the country, according to results of a recent survey by Consumer Reports magazine.

Out of a possible 100 score, HealthAlliance got a 66, which was better than UMass Memorial Medical, which got a 53, Massachusetts General Hospital, with a 45, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, with a 42 .

Heywood Hospital in Gardner scored an impressive 56, which also beat the more famous hospitals.

The highest score in the country belonged to the Billings Clinic in Billings, Mont., which got a 72. The lowest score was 16, which was earned by Sacred Heart Hospital in Chicago.

HealthAlliance President and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Muldoon said the hospital works hard to ensure patient safety, so while he wasn't surprised to be ranked high, the top ranking did surprise him.

He and the staff are proud of the accomplishment, Muldoon said.

"They only went to the top 10 in the nation in the report and the 10th hospital had 68 and we had 66, so we probably were in the top 15, which isn't bad," he said.

More than half of the 1,159 hospitals in 44 states rated by Consumer Reports scored below 50.

Most of the high scores went to hospitals in the Midwest and West, while about five of the lowest 10 scores were in the East.
Results were published in the magazine's August issue.

"The safety scores provide a window into our nation's hospitals, exposing worrisome risks that are mostly preventable," Dr. John Santana, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center, said in a released statement.

The magazine generated composite scores for each hospital rated using six criteria, including infections, readmissions, the overuse of scanning, communication about new medications and discharge, complications, and mortality.

A report by the Department of Health and Human Services said infections, surgical mistakes and other medical harm contribute to the deaths of about 180,000 hospital Medicare patients a year, according to the magazine.

Muldoon said HealthAlliance Hospital has focused on safety concerns for years and invested millions of dollars toward improving safety.

"There are a number of very concrete reasons," he said. "It's not happenstance."

Muldoon did not know about the Consumer Reports study until a doctor on staff who subscribes to the magazine told him.

The hospital relies on its three pillars of success, including quality of care in regard to patient safety; patient experience in terms of how they engage with staff, nurses and other employees; and financial excellence, which gives the hospital the financial resources to support the first two pillars.

"Patient safety is front and center," Muldoon said.

HealthAlliance was an early adopter of best practices for prevention of healthcare infections, he said.

As an example, hospital officials looked at ventilated associated pneumonia because patients on ventilators are at higher risk of developing pneumonia. Officials learned that following a checklist of precautions reduces the risk, so the hospital adopted it.

HealthAlliance's lowest score was for communicating drug information to patients, according to the magazine. Even then, 81 percent of patients surveyed said the staff always or usually explained new medications.

The magazine noted that some of the best-known hospitals in the country had lower scores, including Mass General, Cleveland Clinic with 39, New York Presbyterian Hospital with a 32, Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York with a 30, and Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles with 43.

Heywood Hospital President & CEO Winfield S. Brown was not available for comment late Wednesday afternoon.

It was the first time the magazine rated hospital safety.

Nashoba Valley Medical Center in Ayer was not rated.

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