HENDERSON, Ky. -- Just 2½ years after getting a failing grade in a national survey of hospital patient safety, Deaconess Henderson Hospital has been awarded an “A” grade by the same organization, ranking it in the top third of the nation’s hospitals.
“We’re proud of that,” Linda White, Deaconess Henderson’s chief administrative officer, said in an interview Wednesday morning.
The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade was released early Wednesday for 2,901 hospitals based on data updated this fall. Leapfrog says its scoring reflects performance on more than 30 evidence-based measures of patient safety.
In 11 categories — including the prevention of MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), an antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria that can cause life-threatening bloodstream infections — Deaconess Henderson matched the nation’s best hospital score.
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The Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit health care watchdog organization, assigns a letter grade to U.S. general hospitals based on how well they prevent medical errors, accidents, injuries and infections that kill or harm patients.
Deaconess Henderson’s “A” grade follows a steady climb in the Leapfrog ranking, from “F” in the spring of 2019 (when the facility was called Methodist Hospital) to “C” grades in the fall of 2019 and spring of 2020. That improved to “B” grades in the fall of 2020 and again last spring.
Deaconess Henderson was among 32% of hospitals to receive an “A” in these latest rankings, while 26% received a “B,” 35% received a “C,” 7% received a “D” and less than 1% received an “F.”
Methodist Hospital, which had struggled financially and had been laying off dozens of employees, entered into an affiliation with Deaconess Health System in September 2018. Its name changed to Methodist Health in August 2019, then became Deaconess Henderson Hospital effective July 1, 2020, reflecting full integration into Deaconess. (Its sister hospital in Morganfield likewise was integrated then and became Deaconess Union County Hospital. That rural hospital isn’t eligible for a Leapfrog rating.)
In October 2019, White took over as CEO of Methodist Hospital. At the time, she attributed the hospital’s spring 2019 “F” safety score in part on the hospital not having fully implemented electronic medical records, which she said relates directly to a lot of quality scores. That was later resolved.
On Wednesday, White also cited Methodist’s lack at the time of having pulmonary critical care doctors on staff. Since then, she said the hospital hired two such physicians who she said provide 24/7 care.
“They are specialists who are trained to treat the sickest patients in hospitals in the world,” Dr. Dennis Beck, Deaconess Henderson’s chief medical officer and its former interim chief administrative officer.
In the Leapfrog rating, Deaconess Henderson tied the nation’s top score for having specially trained doctors to treat patients in the intensive care unit.
White also cited progress in delivery of medicine to patients. “We’re very diligent about getting the right medicine to the right patient” in a timely manner, she said.
“Communication is the key” to that, Beck said.
Deaconess Henderson received an above-average score for communication about medicines and also tied for the nation’s best scores in staff working together to prevent errors, having effective leadership to prevent errors and having enough qualified nurses.
“Another important trait has been speaking up if there is a near-miss” when an error in patient care was nearly made, Beck said. “We communicate to see what we can learn from them” to prevent mistakes in the future.
While Leapfrog gauges more than 30 performance measures, and it said “(e)very person will have different ideas about what is most important to them … we suggest checking out whether your hospital scores well on” three categories in particular:
Having a policy to ensure all staff members are washing their hands before and after patient contact. Deaconess Henderson tied for the best score in the country in handwashing.
Avoiding infection in the blood of patients who have a tube inserted to deliver medication and other treatments. Deaconess Henderson received a better-than-average score for avoiding infection in the blood during ICU stays.
Ensuring that patients don’t suffer an added injury from a fall while in the hospital. Deaconess Henderson tied for the best score in the country in preventing falls.
Beck said it is remarkable that Deaconess Henderson has steadily improved its scores and has now achieved an “A” while contending with “the world’s worst pandemic,” the COVID-19 outbreak that has lingered and at times surged since March 2020.
“It’s like driving 200 miles per hour on a NASCAR track while changing the oil and changing the tires,” he said.
“Thank you to all the staff, the medical staff, the board of directors” for maintaining faith in the hospital “when we were not were want wanted to be” in the safety rating, White said, and “for standing up” and making steady improvements.
Current and past rankings for Deaconess Henderson Hospital and 2,900 other hospitals, including more detailed explanations of the scores, are available at www.hospitalsafetygrade.org. Here are some highlights:
Regional hospital scores
Deaconess Henderson Hospital: A
Deaconess Midtown Hospital in Evansville: A
Deaconess Gateway Hospital in Newburgh: A
Ascension St. Vincent Evansville: A
Owensboro Health: A
Tristar Greenview Regional Hospital in Bowling Green: A
Norton Hospital in Louisville: A
Norton Audubon Hospital in Louisville: A
Norton Women’s & Children’s in Louisville: A
Norton Brownsboro Hospital in Louisville: A
Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville: A
Tristar Centennial Medical Center in Nashville: A
Baptist Health Paducah: A
Baptist Health Lexington: A
IU Health Bloomington Hospital: A
UofL Health — Mary & Elizabeth Hospital in Louisville: B
Baptist Health Louisville: A
Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes, Indiana: B
Mercy Health Lourdes in Paducah: B
University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler Hospital in Lexington: C
UK Good Samaritan Hospital in Lexington: C
Saint Joseph Hospital in Lexington: C
Baptist Health Deaconess Madisonville: C
Owensboro Health Muhlenberg County Hospital: C
Medical Center at Bowling Green: C
Jewish Hospital in Louisville: C
University of Louisville Hospital: C
Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center in Jasper, Indiana: C
Daviess Community Hospital in Washington, Indiana: C
Carle Richland Memorial Hospital in Olney, Illinois: C
Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center in Leitchfield: C
Jennie Stuart Health in Hopkinsville: D
Nashville General Hospital: D
This article originally appeared on Evansville Courier & Press: Deaconess Henderson's surge from F to A highlights local hospital grades