Patient-safety grades for Forsyth Medical Center and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center were unchanged in the fall 2019 analysis of a key measuring stick.

The Leapfrog Group discloses grades twice a year for more than 2,600 hospitals nationally. Leapfrog is a national nonprofit organization founded by larger employers and private health care purchasers.

In the fall report, released Thursday, Forsyth retained an A grade after being a B for both reports in 2017 and 2018.

Meanwhile, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center stayed at C for the fifth consecutive report. High Point Medical Center, which Wake Forest Baptist acquired in September 2018, has gone from an A to a B to an A in the past three reports.

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 14th time in the last 15 reports, while UNC Hospitals was ranked A for the seventh consecutive period.

Medical Park Hospital was graded at A for the eighth consecutive report. Kernersville Medical Center fell from an A to a B. Clemmons and Davie medical centers have not been reviewed since they opened.

Moses Cone Hospital of Greensboro returned to an A after dropping to a B in the spring report. Wesley Long was at A for the 11th consecutive time.

Wilkes Medical Center, which Wake Forest Baptist acquired in July 2017, improved from a D in the spring report to a B in the fall report.

Altogether, there were 10 Triad and Northwest N.C. hospitals with an A grade, four with a B and three with a C.

Leapfrog began issuing safety scores in spring 2012. Its overall and individual category grades can reflect multiple years of review.

Researchers use publicly available data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Leapfrog hospital survey, and secondary data sources to produce a composite score.

Leapfrog reviews 28 measures of patient safety, including such areas as error prevention, infections and medication mix-ups.

The grade includes five measures of patient-reported experience with the hospital, as well as two of the most common infections — C. diff and MRSA.

Local scores

Forsyth performed above the national average in 17 measures, average in four measures and below average in seven measures.

Forsyth had: three below and two above for the five infection measures; three above, three average and one below average for the seven surgical measures; five above and one below average for the six practices to prevent errors measures; three above and one below for the four safety-problems measures; and four above and one average and one below average for the six measures of how doctors, nurses and hospital staff are evaluated.

Of Novant’s nine N.C. hospitals that were reviewed, six received an A and three a B.

“I’m proud to say this newly released data confirms our goal to significantly reduce or eliminate hospital-associated infections and improve patient safety, quality and satisfaction,” Dr. Eric Eskioglu, Novant’s chief medical officer, said in a statement.

“Over the past two scoring periods, we have reduced our hospital-associated infection rates to historic lows and we remain vigilant to providing safe, quality care to our patients.”

“Safety and quality are our top priorities, and we have started to pivot toward new strategies and technologies, such as artificial intelligence, to improve in these areas,” Eskioglu said.

Wake Forest Baptist performed above the national average in 15, average in one measure and below average in 12 measures.

The center had: three above and two below-average grades among the five infection measures; four below and three above average for the seven surgical measures; five above and one below average for the six practices to prevent errors measures; two above and two below average for the four safety-problems measures; and two above, one average and three below for the six measures of how doctors, nurses and hospital staff are evaluated.

Dr. Erik Summers, chief medical officer at Wake Forest Baptist, said that reports, such as Leapfrog, “allow us to see how we can continue to improve our overall patient care.”

“However, it is often very difficult for patients to effectively use the information from these surveys due to the complex and highly variable criteria, time frames and calculations that are used.

“While there is no change in letter grade from the spring survey, we are pleased to see improvements in several process and outcome measures,” he said.

Cone performed above the national average in 17, average in two measures and below average in nine measures.

The center had: three below and two above-average grades among the five infection measures; six above and one below average for the seven surgical measures; three above and three below average for the six practices to prevent errors measures; three above and one below average for the four safety-problems measures; and three above, two average and one below for the six measures of how doctors, nurses and hospital staff are evaluated.

“High-quality care means better care and safer care,” Dr. Bruce Swords, chief physician executive for Cone, said in a statement.

“Leapfrog only grades hospitals. But our relentless drive for higher-quality health care is applied to every part of our enterprise, including every physician office, every rehab facility and every clinic visit — at every patient encounter,” Swords said.

Grades matter

Leapfrog researchers said they have determined that when compared with an A hospital, patients at a B hospital on average face a 35% greater risk of avoidable death, as well as an 88% greater risk at a C hospital and a 92% greater risk at a D and F hospital.

Nationally, 33% of surveyed hospitals received an A grade, while 24% received a B, 34% a C, 8% a D and 1% an F.

The release of the fall 2019 grades coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Institute of Medicine’s groundbreaking report, “To err is human,” which revealed that nearly 100,000 lives are lost every year due to preventable medical errors. Subsequent research suggests the number may be twice as high.

“In stark contrast to 20 years ago, we’re now able to pinpoint where the problems are, and that allows us to grade hospitals,” Leah Binder, Leapfrog’s president and chief executive, said in a statement. “It also allows us to better track progress.

“Encouragingly, we are seeing fewer deaths from the preventable errors we monitor in our grading process.”

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