By Kim Walter
Winchester Medical Center has been awarded an "A" hospital safety score from the LeapFrog group, a national independent nonprofit and advocate in hospital transparency.
LeapFrog not only extracts data from hospital systems, but also uses a safety survey to get a more in depth assessment of how facilities are operating. WMC was one of 30 hospitals in the state to receive an "A" grade, while Warren Memorial Hospital in Front Royal received a "B," which still reflects above-average patient safety performance.
The A, B, C, D or F scores are assigned to U.S. hospitals based on preventable medical errors, injuries, accidents and infections.
Nicolas Restrepo, WMC's Vice President of Medical Affairs, said the grade is a "tremendous honor."
"To me, it means that we're doing the right things in terms of patient safety, but in no means is this an end point," he said Wednesday. "This has showed us that we have opportunities to improve. This is no time to rest and pat ourselves on the back."
The hospital this year has implemented three safety initiatives, which have helped staff to identify what patients, family members, physicians, nurses and others view as concerns when it comes to safety.
"In April, we launched the safety rounds," he said. "Each day, members of the senior leadership team at WMC along with quality improvement nurses go in pairs of two and learn the concerns of the patient."
Restrepo said hundreds of people have been questioned, with the focus of the initiative being on listening. Different questions are asked depending on who is involved in the "round."
"For instance, we've asked our employees, 'If you had a family member as a patient, what concerns would you have to their safety,'" he said. "Or we ask our nurses what kinds of worries they have with the patients that they're treating that day."
From there, a site was developed for use throughout the hospital that allowed employees to see the different issues that were reported, as well as details surrounding the problem, such as how it was fixed and how long it took to find a solution. Restrepo said sometimes problems could be solved within a day, but other larger issues took months to resolve.
"What we've found, is the closer you get to bedside, the better the information is regarding safe patient care," he said. "You have to talk to the people who are directly affected."
A new feature to the safety rounds is a daily safety call, which lasts 15 minutes and allows almost 30 different units of the hospital to report on safety issues that took place in the past 24 hours, as well as any problems they could foresee happening in the upcoming 24 hours.
"We've been able to learn in real time the kinds of challenges we face, and it's been a great guide for us in continuing to ensure patient safety," Restrepo said.
Jessica Watson, WMC's clinical manager, said another initiative is the safewalk, which started in June. Once a week, a team of WMC leaders meets and focuses on regulatory compliance and its effect on safe care.
"I think a common theme in our issues is getting all the right players to the table to work on an issue," she said. "A lot of these problems require help and input from different disciplines."
Since starting these safety initiatives, employees have reported around 500 concerns and responses from talking to people at the hospital. Restrepo said he was surprised by how many issues stemmed from bringing in a patient from another care facility.
"There is a tremendous information that comes with a patient, and it leaves room for error," he said. "That's made us realize the need to increase communication between us and past caregivers, family members and the patients themselves."
"As health care providers, we are privileged in serving patients. We're with them during tough moments and happy moments ... but no matter what, we want them to feel safe when they come here," Watson said. "This recognition really just tells us that we're on the right track."
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org