Winston-Salem — Two of the Triad’s three largest hospitals have taken a step back when it comes to their grade in a key measuring stick on patient safety.
A semiannual study was released Wednesday by the Leapfrog Group, a national not-for-profit organization founded by larger employers and private health care purchasers. Leapfrog began issuing safety scores in spring 2012.
Moses Cone Hospital of Greensboro slipped from an A to B grade for the first time in eight reports, while Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem dropped from B to C. Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem remained at B for the second consecutive report.
Dr. Bruce Swords, the chief medical officer for Cone Health, said that its affiliated hospitals continue to perform well when it comes to avoiding complications, hospital-acquired infections and patient falls.
“Avoiding them day in and day out, year after year, is a true commitment to excellence,” Swords said.
It is the first time since 2013 that Wake Forest Baptist received a C grade.
Medical Park Hospital, operated by Novant Health, was graded at A for the fourth consecutive report. Kernersville Medical Center, operated by Novant Health, remained at A, as did High Point Regional.
Nine of the 16 hospitals in the Triad and northwestern North Carolina received an A, three received a B and four received a C.
Some community hospitals, such as Clemmons and Davie medical centers, did not have enough patient safety data to participate.
Leapfrog reviews 30 measures of patient safety, including such areas as error prevention, infections and medication mix-ups. It also issues a score of above average, average and below average in six categories: collapsed lung, serious breathing problem, dangerous blood clot, surgical wound splits open, accidental cuts and tears, and death from treatable serious complications.
The score includes five measures of patient-reported experience with the hospital, as well as two of the most common infections — clostridium difficile, commonly known as C-diff, and MRSA. In the latest report, Leapfrog provided easier access to how hospitals performed in the 30 measures.
For example, Forsyth Medical Center was rated overall below the national average in the MRSA category, while overall performing above average with how doctors, nurses and hospital staff were evaluated. Wake Forest Baptist performed overall below the national average in the MRSA and practices to prevent errors categories, while overall performing above the average overall with how doctors, nurses and hospital staff were evaluated
Dr. Tom Zweng, the chief medical officer for Novant, said that although most hospitals in its system received an A or B grade, “until our system can report zero incidents of infection or error, we will never be fully satisfied.”
“On an ongoing basis, a team of Novant Health physicians and clinical staff analyze our hospital acquired conditions and patient safety indicators to identify opportunities for improvement,” Zweng said. “We have and will continue to remain dedicated to implementing new strategies to directly address improving quality and safety.”
Wake Forest Baptist could not be reached for immediate comment on the drop in its Leapfrog grade.
Wake Forest Baptist officials have said they prefer to be compared primarily with other academic medical centers. Duke University Hospital received an A for the 11th consecutive report, while UNC Hospitals was ranked A for the third consecutive period.
“It takes consistent, unwavering dedication to patients to achieve the highest standards of patient safety,” said Leah Binder, the president and chief executive officer of the Leapfrog Group. “An A safety grade recognizes hospitals for this accomplishment.”
Researchers use publicly available data from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Leapfrog Hospital Survey and secondary sources to produce a composite score for 2,639 participating hospitals.
Overall nationally, 832 hospitals earned an A (31.7 percent), 662 earned a B (25.1 percent), 964 earned a C (36.6 percent), 159 earned a D (6.1 percent) and 15 earned an F (0.5 percent).
“But we need to accelerate the pace of change because too many people are still getting harmed or killed,” Binder said.
Officials with the N.C. Hospital Association have cautioned that a simple grading system for hospitals’ safety ignores many of the factors involved in patient care, particularly physician consultations.
Richard Craver is a reporter for the Winston-Salem Journal. Contact him at 336-727-7376 or firstname.lastname@example.org.