LEWISTON — In a hospital safety report where patients got accidental punctures or infections that left them crippled or dead, an online Consumer Reports article gave Central Maine Medical Center the highest safety rank of four Maine hospitals.
CMMC received a score of 65 out of a possible rank of 100. The other three Maine hospitals in the report were Maine Medical Center in Portland, 46; Eastern Maine Medical in Bangor, 57; and MaineGeneral in Waterville, 59. The report did not rate Lewiston’s St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center or other Maine hospitals.
Nationally, Consumer Reports gave the highest safety rank to Billings Clinic in Montana, 72; and the lowest to Sacred Heart Hospital in Chicago, 16.
Calling medical harm a leading cause of death, this is the first time Consumer Reports rated hospitals for safety, according to the August edition.
CMMC was given above average marks for preventing infections. The hospital reported one bloodstream infection of intensive care unit patients between Oct. 1, 2010, to Sept. 30, 2011, which was 85 percent better than national rates, Consumer Reports reported.
It was given average marks for avoiding patient deaths and hospital re-admissions, and below average for drug information. For patient experience, CMMC got average marks, with between 91 to 97 percent of patients saying during their hospitalization their pain was controlled, their rooms were clean, staff was helpful and nurses and doctors communicated well.
Dr. David Lauver, chief of the CMMC’s Division of Hospital Based Care, said Monday he was pleased with his hospital’s score, calling it a validation of doing a good job.
“Does a score of 65 make me giddy? No,” Lauver said. But it affirms the hospital is doing better than many, “and we’re on the right path.”
CMMC has worked for years to build “a culture of safety. We focus on that all the time; it’s not a one-day event,” Chuck Gill, vice president of Public Affairs, said.
Patient wristbands have bar coding that has to match orders. In operating rooms there’s a “time-out before you start,” double-checking the right patient is having the right procedure, Gill said. The hospital isn’t done, he said. “The next time we’d like to get 75.”
One example of improved safety is working to ensure patients avoid being re-admitted, Lauver said. CMMC does that by providing patients with education and ensuring follow-up care.
This year the goal is to reduce re-admissions by one-half of a percent. That may not sound like much, Lauver said, but that “means 50 people fewer will be readmitted within 30 days by keeping them well.”
Another example is steps CMMC has taken to reduce infections in so-called “central lines,” or catheters or tubes used to deliver fluids, medicine and nutrition to patients.
Placing central lines in patients for long durations helps avoid repetitive shots, but it risks infections, Lauver said. CMMC has developed standards and techniques for inserting the lines and routine care to prevent infection.
Even if hospital staff does everything right, “there is not a guarantee you’ll have the perfect outcome,” Lauver said. “Our focus has been we want to do better for our patients.”
At Portland’s Maine Medical Center, a doctor in charge of patient safety said the hospital wasn’t pleased with its score of 46.
“We have things we want to improve on,” said Dr. Doug Salvador, vice president for quality and patient safety. MMC is working to improve infection rates and patient communication.
His hospital is proud of its patient safety record, Salvador said. “We are recognized by national groups for being a safe hospital.”
Last month a different patient safety study, “The Leapfrog Group,” looked at 2,652 hospitals across the country and awarded 729 of them scores of A, including MMC.
One reason MMC scored lower, Salvador said, is the set of measures Consumer Reports used to judge hospitals, including patient communication and infections. “Those are things we want to improve.”
Patient safety standards are emerging and not yet standardized, which can mean different investigations net different results. “You can be A in one and poor in another,” Salvador said.
As patient safety measures become more common, that confusion will be reduced, he predicted.
About Consumer Reports’ findings
According to the magazine, it used data from government, patient surveys and independent sources, including data self-reported from hospitals.
Hospitals were given scores after Consumer Reports looked at six categories: avoiding infections, avoiding re-admissions, communicating with patients about medicine and discharge, appropriate use of chest and abdominal scanning, avoiding serious complications and mortality.
The report ranked only 18 percent of hospitals in the country because data on patient harm isn’t fully reported in all states, the article said.
Maine results were not included in the magazine available at newsstands. Efforts to reach Consumer Reports’ to find out why were not successful. Maine results were only available after subscribing online at http://tinyurl.com/cgork3r.