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Updated: New Jersey ranks fifth nationwide in hospital safety, Leapfrog says

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(Editor's note: This report was updated at 11:50 a.m. with comments from Audrey Meyers of Valley Hospital and Valley Health System.)

New Jersey ranks fifth in the nation on the spring 2015 Leapfrog Hospital Safety Score, which assigns grades from A to F to more than 2,500 hospitals nationwide on how well they protect patients from preventable harm such as accidents, injuries and infections.

The Leapfrog Group graded 66 New Jersey acute care hospitals and 29, or 43.9 percent, got an A for safety. The four states with a higher percentage of A-rated hospitals are Maine, Massachusetts, Virginia and Florida.

Nine Jersey hospitals have gotten straight As since the twice-yearly Hospital Safety Score began in 2012: Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville; Englewood Hospital and Medical Center; Hackensack University Medical Center; JFK Medical Center in Edison; Jersey City Medical Center; Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston; Saint Clare’s Hospital in Denville; Saint Clare’s Hospital in Dover; and Valley Hospital in Ridgewood.

“We are very proud that, for the seventh consecutive time, Saint Clare’s hospitals in Denville and Dover have been recognized with an A grade,” said Leslie D. Hirsch, chief executive officer at Saint Clare’s Health System. “Patient safety is always our top priority, and it is gratifying when the hard work and efforts of all our staff are recognized at a national level.”

​“We are pleased and proud to once again receive an 'A' for patient safety, and particularly proud to be among the select group of ‘straight A’s’ hospitals” said Audrey Meyers, chief executive of Valley Hospital and Valley Health System. “This top grade is a reflection and a result of our longstanding focus on and commitment to patient safety and quality care.”

Another 21 New Jersey hospitals have consistently gotten A’s or B’s since 2012.

The results were announced by Leapfrog affiliate New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, and details are online at the institute’s website, www.njhcqi.org, and at the Leapfrog website, www.hospitalsafetyscore.org.

“Hospitals must consistently demonstrate their capability to prevent harm in order to earn the trust of their patients,” said Linda Schwimmer, vice president of the NJHCQI and a member of the Leapfrog board. She said the institute “wants to recognize our A hospitals and encourage them to strive for continued vigilance and excellence.”

Donna Leusner, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health, said, “New Jersey hospitals are committed to working to improve safety and quality and working with organizations like Leapfrog to share information.”

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She said that, like the department's quality reports such as the Hospital Performance Report, which is on the department’s website, “The Leapfrog report is a good tool for patients to discuss with their doctors when they are considering elective inpatient procedures.”

No hospital in New Jersey got an F, and only one, Saint Michael’s Medical Center in Newark, got a D. California-based Prime Healthcare has offered to purchase Saint Michael’s and is awaiting a hearing by the state Health Planning Board. 

Saint Michael’s spokeswoman Cathy Toscano told NJBIZ that the medical center does not currently participate in the Leapfrog survey and that, in some instances, the hospital’s score reflects outdated publically available information.

Toscano said: “Once the state approves our sale to Prime Healthcare, we will have more resources to conduct the rigorous data collection required to complete the survey. Saint Michael’s makes patient safety a priority and we are committed to providing the highest quality health care experience for our patients.”

New Jersey commissioned a study that earlier this year concluded there are surplus hospital beds in the greater Newark area and recommended converting three of the region’s five hospitals, including Saint Michael’s, into ambulatory care facilities.

Prime says it is committed to acquiring Saint Michael’s and keeping it a full-service hospital. Last year, Prime acquired St. Mary’s Hospital in Passaic and is also seeking state approval to acquire the Saint Clare’s Health System in Denville.

Among the 10 New Jersey hospitals that got a C is University Hospital in Newark, which is owned by the state of New Jersey and is the main teaching hospital of the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark.

University Hospital Chief Executive James R. Gonzalez told NJBIZ: “Nothing is more important to University Hospital than the safety of our patients and the quality of care we provide to everyone who comes through our doors. We are committed to assuring each patient of the best possible outcome. Our goal is to achieve the very highest level of recognition for our efforts, and the Leapfrog score is an added incentive to continue to improve.”

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick received a C grade. Spokesman Peter Haigney told NJBIZ that the hospital “continues to support efforts to encourage transparency and give individuals access to information that can help them better evaluate the quality of care provided by our state’s hospitals. Clearly, we are not satisfied with the results of any individual rating, as we constantly strive to improve the quality of care we provide and achieve more successful outcomes.”

He said the hospital continued to show improvement on several measures evaluated by the report.

“For example, at RWJ New Brunswick, we have recorded a 100 percent increase in our computerized physician order entry score, from 50 to 100 — ensuring greater accuracy of information shared among our health providers to deliver better outcomes for our patients. We have also reduced our central line-associated blood stream infection rates by 23 percent — which dramatically enhances quality and improves patient outcomes — during the most recent sample period evaluated by the Leapfrog Group.”

Haigney said: “We will use the data in this report to benchmark our performance and develop quality improvement initiatives to address any areas of need. We anticipate continued improvement in quality outcomes for our patients, in partnership with our physicians and hospital staff.”

Capital Health’s Trenton medical center got an A, while its Hopewell medical center got a C. Spokeswoman Jayne O’Connor told NJBIZ: “Providing the highest quality care to our patients is the top priority at every level of Capital Health each day of the year. We continually review our data and have already made successful changes that are not yet reflected in this rating.”

Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County received a C, while Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden got an A. Lourdes spokeswoman Carol Lynn Daly told NJBIZ: “Leapfrog is just one of many available hospital ‘report cards.’ Nonetheless, its methodology continues to be criticized for an overemphasis on the availability of systems, such as computerized physician order entry (used to prescribe medication to patients).”

Daly said: “Like every health care organization, Lourdes Burlington works to improve our performance every day. This work never stops. We were pleased to be identified by the Joint Commission as a top performer in key core measures. We have significantly reduced readmissions and have several programs in place to identify patients at risk for readmission to the hospital. We received a 5-star rating from Healthgrades for our stroke care for 2015.”

Betsy Ryan, chief executive of the New Jersey Hospital Association, said: “It’s wonderful to see New Jersey hospitals rank once again in the Top Five nationally in the Hospital Safety Score. It validates the intense focus our hospitals have placed on quality improvement and patient safety, through initiatives like the national Partnership for Patients and quality collaboratives under NJHA’s Institute for Quality and Patient Safety. That work has been ongoing for more than a decade, and it’s resulting in better, safer hospital care for New Jersey residents.”

Ryan said: “While we’re very proud of our hospitals’ performance, our focus isn’t on report card rankings, but in the pursuit of top-quality care and good outcomes for patients. That requires constant vigilance, open dialogue and a culture of improvement in our hospitals, an engaged and empowered hospital staff and transparency of results. Those are some of the ingredients of our hospitals’ ongoing quality improvement efforts.”

Ryan said the Hospital Safety Score “is one valuable source of information, but we encourage the public to take advantage of the wide array of health care information available today. That includes rankings and report cards, performance and outcome data, but also advice from your doctor or other health care professionals and good old-fashioned word-of-mouth.”

Schwimmer of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute said, “We will continue to use the Hospital Safety Score in New Jersey as a tool to educate the public while working with physicians, nurses and other clinicians to improve patient safety in our community.”

And she said the institute also will use the scores to “work with our employer and purchaser members on contracting, value-based purchasing, benefits design and community educational programs to spur safety improvements in our hospitals.”

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Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald reports on health care, small business and higher education. She joined NJBIZ in 2008 after a 34-year career at the Star-Ledger and has been reporting on business in New Jersey since 1978. Her email is beth@njbiz.com and she is @bethfitzgerald8 on Twitter.

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