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News / Health / Clark County Health

Clark County hospitals recognized for high-quality care and safety

Facilities get A, but rank lower in areas related to surgery

By Dylan Jefferies, Columbian staff writer
Published: November 12, 2021, 6:07am

PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center and Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center both received A ratings in a recent hospital safety analysis conducted by The Leapfrog Group, an independent national watchdog organization that examines hospital quality and safety.

Leapfrog assigns a letter grade – A, B, C, D or F – to general hospitals based on performance, error prevention, injuries, accidents, infections and other safety measures. A panel of patient safety experts use public data and surveys to determine the grades, which are updated every six months.

The methodology for determining grades is peer-reviewed and available to the public. Some 2,600 general hospitals in the United States are assigned a grade.

An A rating means a hospital scored well on the above-mentioned criteria. It doesn’t mean that a hospital is error-free, however. For example, PeaceHealth scored poorly in areas related to surgical procedures, as did Legacy Salmon Creek.

Specifically, PeaceHealth scored below average on MRSA infections (an antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria found in bedsheets and medical equipment), accidental cuts and tears during surgery and responsiveness of hospital staff.

Legacy Salmon Creek scored below average on blood leakage during surgery and the number of specifically trained doctors on staff for ICU patients.

But a poor rating in certain areas, even among hospitals that receive lower letter grades, doesn’t mean that a hospital is unsafe.

Leapfrog stresses that patients in need of care shouldn’t avoid hospitals in an emergency based on the safety grade. Instead, when patients have a choice, the safety grade offers important information that allows them to be discerning, because not all hospitals are the same.

Additionally, hospital officials use Leapfrog’s safety grade to assess where improvements can be made.

“Leapfrog is a tool we’ve been able to use over the years to help improve the care that we provide,” said PeaceHealth spokesperson Randy Querin. “Looking at what they’re looking at helps us know what we should be looking at.”

“PeaceHealth Southwest is very well-versed in the criteria Leapfrog uses to evaluate health systems,” said Clint Sanborn, director of quality and patient safety at PeaceHealth Southwest. “We have processes in place to continually respond in the event Leapfrog makes any additions or changes to their criteria. We have rigorously compiled and submitted our data to Leapfrog every spring and fall since 2018.”

When asked about the Leapfrog safety grade Wednesday, a Legacy Health spokesperson said administrators hadn’t yet reviewed the results.

Kaiser Permanente, OHSU

Kaiser Permanente Sunnyside Medical Center received an A with very few poor scores, the only ones being a high number of dangerous blood clots and a below-average number of doctors who order medication with a computer, a less error-prone system compared to writing prescriptions by hand.

Kaiser Permanente Westside Medical Center received a B, scoring poorly in some areas related to infections and safety problems and scoring well in all other areas.

OHSU Hillsboro Medical Center and OHSU Marquam Hill Campus both received C, scoring poorly in areas related to infections, safety problems and errors.

Analyzing the different OHSU scores reveals how a discerning patient might use the safety grades to make an educated choice about which facility to use based on the patient’s needs.

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For example, OHSU Hillsboro Medical Center scored relatively well on infections but poorly on hospital staff; OHSU Marquam Hill Campus scored poorly on infections but well on hospital staff. A patient prone to infection might choose Hillsboro over Marquam Hill, while a patient seeking a highly communicative and responsive staff might choose Marquam Hill over Hillsboro.

Overall, the Leapfrog safety grade has one central purpose: improving the safety and quality of care across the health care system nationwide.

“Providing safe, high-quality care for all remains essential to our mission,” said PeaceHealth Chief Executive Sean Gregory after receiving the results of Leapfrog’s analysis. “I am very proud of our caregivers and physicians who have undoubtedly experienced the most challenging 20 months of their health care careers yet continue to strive for excellence every day in caring for our community.”