Wake Forest Baptist Health—Wilkes Medical Center in North Wilkesboro improved to a “B” letter grade in the Leapfrog Group’s fall 2019 assessment of hospital safety.

Leapfrog assigns “A” through “F” letter grades each spring and fall to general acute-care hospitals nationwide based on their performance in preventing medical errors, injuries, accidents, infections and other harms to patients in their care.

Dr. Hayes Calvert, chief medical officer at Wilkes Medical Center, stated, “We are extremely pleased to see this significant improvement in our fall Leapfrog grade. Our entire team—leadership, providers and staff—is dedicated to keeping our patients safe and providing them with the best experience possible.”

Calvert added, “Surveys such as Leapfrog can help show us ways we can continue to improve the level of high quality and compassionate care we provide every day to our patients and their loved ones here at Wilkes Medical Center.”

Wilkes Medical Center received a “D” in spring 2019, “C” in fall 2018, no grade in spring 2018, “C” in fall 2017 and an “A” in every report before that since it was first scored in fall 2013. The fall 2019 report was released Thursday.

Wilkes Medical Center had perfect scores for “steps to avoid harm,” “specially-trained doctors for intensive care unit patients” in the fall 2019 report. The report said it had all safeguards in place recommended by Leapfrog to assure “appropriate use of antibiotics.”

The Leapfrog Report said Wilkes Medical Center agreed to five of the nine principles of Leapfrog’s “Never Events” policy, which dictates how a hospital responds to take responsibility if a rare and sometimes serious medical error occurs.

Leapfrog’s grades are based on data for different time periods for 28 safety topics. Hospitals must report some data to the federal government and some is based on voluntary responses to Leapfrog’s hospital surveys. Data from the American Hospital Association is also used.

According to Leapfrog, the 28 safety topics considered and the scoring methodology were developed by a panel of 10 experts, all physicians and mostly on faculty of leading universities. Leapfrog said handwashing, patient falls and blood infections are among key patient safety considerations included with the 28.

Some performance measures are risk-adjusted for patient health conditions and income so hospitals aren’t penalized for admitting sicker, poorer patients.

Grades for other hospitals

Hospitals listed with an “A” in the last fall and spring reports included Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital in Elkin, Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem and Duke University Hospital in Durham.

“Earning an ‘A’ grade from the Leapfrog Group is a tremendous accomplishment,” said Paul Hammes, CEO of Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital. “It validates the efforts of so many across our entire team who continuously strive to improve patient care. Hugh Chatham is nationally recognized for clinical quality and patient safety, and this latest milestone not only underscores our vision to be the best community hospital in the nation, but also reflects that care and compassion that we strive to provide every day.”

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem had a “C” in the last fall and spring reports.

Assigned a “C” in the last fall report and a “B” in the spring report were Watauga Medical Center in Boone, Northern Hospital of Surry County in Mount Airy and Frye Regional Medical Center in Hickory.

Caldwell UNC Healthcare in Lenoir and Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center in Charlotte both had a “B” in the last fall and spring reports. Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte received a “B” in the last fall report and a “C” in the prior spring report.

The report said Davis Regional Medical Center, Iredell Memorial Hospital and Lake Norman Regional Medical Center, all in Iredell County, didn’t participate.

Some hospitals aren’t given a grade because they can’t report enough data to the federal government due to their small size or don’t provide it for some other reason.

Among more than 2,600 hospitals nationwide included in the fall 2019 report, 33% were assigned an “A,” 25% a “B,” 34% a “C,” 8% a “D” and just under 1% an “F.”

Forty-seven percent of North Carolina hospitals received an A, which was the fifth highest percentage among the 50 states. The other four highest were Maine, 59%; Utah, 56%; Virginia, 56%; and Oregon, 48%.

Leapfrog is a national nonprofit established in 2000 by private and public health-care purchasers to help improve the quality and affordability of U.S. healthcare. It gets financial support from entities such as AARP, CBS, FedEx Corporation and Marriott International Inc.

Leapfrog has assigned hospitals letter grades twice per year since 2012.

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