Mercy Hospital In Fort Smith Earns Region’s Sole ‘A’ Grade For Patient Safety, Quality

FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- Mercy Hospital in Fort Smith was one of only two hospitals in Arkansas to earn "A" grades for patient safety and quality, according to a report released Wednesday (May 15) from The Leapfrog Group.

“The good news is that tens of thousands of lives have been saved because of progress on patient safety. The bad news is that there’s still a lot of needless death and harm in American hospitals,” said Leah Binder, president, and CEO of the Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit organization that assesses hospitals through public reporting initiatives.

“Hospitals don’t all have the same track record, so it really matters which hospital people choose, which is the purpose of our Hospital Safety Grade.”

No other hospital in Northwest Arkansas or the River Valley scored higher than a "B":

  • Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas -- B
  • Johnson Regional Medical Center in Clarksville -- C
  • North Arkansas Regional Medical Center in Harrison -- C
  • Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville -- C
  • Northwest Medical Center in Bentonville -- C
  • Baptist Health in Fort Smith -- D
  • Northwest Medical Center in Springdale -- D

Northwest Health said it "is committed to providing safe, quality care for every patient," adding that Leapfrog's grades were reflective of "certain process measures, not quality outcomes," according to a statement from Hans Driessnack, CEO of the Springdale campus.

"For example, because we did not conduct an employee satisfaction survey last year, we scored a zero in that category," Driessnack said.

"It’s also important to know data used in the Hospital Safety Grade report doesn’t reflect real-time progress, as it’s from 2015-2018."

Driessnack also said the hospital is working continually to improve quality and has added process measures like "regular safety huddles which generate timely interventions that have reduced bloodstream infections over the last nine months."

"Increasing staff awareness of sepsis supports early identification of infection and treatment," Driessnack said.

"And our antibiotic stewardship program ensures the appropriate use of these medications which has also led to decreased infections."

Terri Church, director of quality management for Washington Regional, noted that while the hospital partners with Leapfrog, "any tool that aims to evaluate quality in a healthcare setting has weaknesses such as lag time in data reporting or reliance upon claims data."

Church added that the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services ranks Washington Regional among the top 10 percent nationally on a measure called PSI-90 that is a composite of ten patient safety measures.

"We rank in the top 10 percent nationally with Care-Chex data that utilizes Med-Par data and a different methodology for reporting a quality score," Church said.

"We also received the Governor's Quality Award for Performance Excellence which was achieved after a rigorous review that established consistent quality and outcomes."

A spokeswoman for Baptist Health also pointed to potential issues in Leapfrog's findings.

"There are numerous sites such as this one -- all with differing measurement methods and differing results," said Cara Wade, the hospital's director of system communications.

"We continuously monitor our quality, and we meet or exceed the benchmark of clinical quality indicators from all the data sources we use -- such as Crimson and HCUP -- at all of our hospitals. Providing the highest quality of care continues to be our utmost priority."

Leapfrog said it reviewed more than 2,600 hospitals as part of its 2019 report, which found that patients at "D" and "F" hospitals face a 92 percent greater risk of avoidable death.

The reported noted that "Even "A” hospitals are not perfectly safe, but researchers found they are getting safer. If all hospitals had an avoidable death rate equivalent to “A” hospitals, 50,000 lives would have been saved, versus 33,000 lives that would have been saved by “A” level performance in 2016."

The only other hospital in Arkansas to earn an "A" was Ouachita County Medical Center in Camden. National Park Medical Center in Hot Springs was the only hospital to receive an "F."

To view the full report and a more in-depth breakdown of each hospital's score, click here.

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