- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 5, 2017

A medical watchdog nonprofit group has given high marks for patient safety to hospitals in Northern Virginia but poor or failing grades for those in the District and the Maryland suburbs.

A total of 24 hospitals in the greater metropolitan area received grades from A to F in the biannual analysis by The Leapfrog Group, which uses Medicare and Medicaid data to assess how well hospitals across the country are employing measures to prevent errors that harm patients.

“What we’re trying to do with this study is to educate people that these errors are common, and people need to be careful when they go to the hospital,” said Leapfrog spokeswoman Erica Mobley.

Of seven hospitals assessed in Northern Virginia, three received A’s, two got B’s and one earned a C in the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade released last week.

“We find this ranking and these grades very gratifying and encouraging,” said Julian Walker, a spokesman for the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, which represents 110 hospitals across Virginia.

In Maryland, 10 hospitals in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties tallied one B, four C’s and five D’s. This was the first time hospital data in Maryland was made available for the Leapfrog analysis, with information provided by the Maryland Health Care Commission.

A commission official said the results are worrisome, but he applauded hospitals for being transparent.

“Even when results are not as positive as one would hope, it allows us to have a conversation about how we — together — can move forward,” said Ben Steffen, the executive director of the Maryland Health Care Commission.

Seven District hospitals scored one B, one C, three D’s and two F’s.

Tom Lalley, a spokesman for the D.C. Department of Health, said officials hadn’t examined how Leapfrog arrived at its rankings, but added that the department is engaged in monitoring hospital safety measures throughout the city.

“DOH conducts unannounced inspections of the city’s 14 hospitals every year and, if a deficient practice is identified, the provider submits a corrective action plan that is reviewed and accepted pending the review,” Mr. Lalley said in an email to The Washington Times. “Depending on the deficient practice, a monitoring/revisit is conducted to ensure compliance.”

Medical errors in hospitals are the third-leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for about 250,000 deaths annually, according to a 2016 study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine. The study said that such deaths are not properly recorded on death certificates nor counted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which uses mortality data to inform “public awareness and national research priorities each year.”

“On average there’s one medication error per patient per day. Some of these errors are relatively harmless but in some cases they can be extremely harmful or fatal,” Leapfrog’s Ms. Mobley said.

Other medical errors include foreign objects left inside a patient during surgery (such as a sponge or scalpel), infections contracted in the hospital, falls and injuries, blood clots, cuts and tears of incisions or wounds splitting open and severe ulcers that penetrate muscle or bone and cause infection.

Dr. Jeffrey DiLisi is chief medical officer of Virginia Hospital Center-Arlington Health System, which received it’s 11th consecutive “A” grade. He said the ranking means a lot to the hospital as recognition of its efforts.

“I think what we do is we focus on what’s in the best interest of the patient, and that’s what consumes us here every single day,” Dr. DiLisi said.

United Medical Center in Southeast was one of two hospitals in the District to receive an F. The hospital has been at the center of scandal for the last few years, with the Department of Health suspending it’s maternity ward license and allegations of staff incompetence related to two patient deaths, first reported by The Washington Post.

The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade evaluated 2,632 general acute-care hospitals in the U.S., ranking states best to worst based on the percentage of hospitals that received “A” grades.

Virginia ranked in fifth place, with 41 of 68 hospitals (60.29 percent) receiving an A. Maryland came in at 48th place, with only one of 44 hospitals (2.27 percent) receiving an A. The District was ranked 50th, with none of its seven hospitals receiving an A.

Leapfrog spokeswoman Ms. Mobley stressed that it’s important to go to the closest hospital in an emergency, but it’s worthwhile to consider the best facility for planned procedures.

“In an urban area where this is more choice, or maybe for a planned procedure, it may be wise to consider if there are safer hospitals,” she said.


• Laura Kelly can be reached at lkelly@washingtontimes.com.

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