By MIKE REUTHER
Patients undergoing surgeries at Susquehanna Health's Williamsport Regional Medical Center apparently can feel they are in the safest hands possible.
From left are Tena Bock, registered nurse; Dr. John Bailey; and Judith Dvorsky, nurse anesthetist, as they prepare an operating room for a surgical patient at Williamsport Hospital last week.
Data compiled by "Consumer Reports" reveals that the hospital received the highest rating possible for surgical care quality.
The ratings for 2,463 hospitals considered Medicare claims data for 27 types of surgery.
Hospital officials cite the culture of safety that is taught and put into practice by everyone - from health care professionals to other employees.
"Everyone has an essential role to play," said Susquehanna Health Chief Medical Officer George Manchester.
"Patient safety is obviously the most important thing for all of us,"
added Lori Beucler, administrative director for Perioperative Services. "Everyone is responsible."
Manchester noted that health care professionals practice evidence-based medicine, which includes ensuring everything is done right before and after surgeries.
It means following specific steps by everyone involved in a procedure.
It's the attention to detail, he said, that can make all the difference.
"You have routine safety measures with a checklist to follow," said Beucler.
The hospital, she said, adheres to guidelines set by the World Health Organization and the Institute of Medicine.
"Before every case we have everything in place to make sure the surgery goes well," she said.
Input from patient and the patient's family also is important.
"We incorporate the patient and the family in this," she said. "Their perception of what is being done must match what is being done."
Added Manchester, "We have extensive medical support for certain procedures."
For example, patients are ambulated as soon as possible following surgeries to minimize risks of blood clots.
Computerized physician data entry also has helped reduce medical errors.
"Eighty percent of orders are done on computer," he said.
Interesting enough, many hospitals have yet to implement the electronic data systems that have become part of many health care institutions, according to Manchester.
The "Consumer Reports" ratings were based on two measures that strongly correlate with overall quality of care: the percentage of Medicare patients who died in the hospital during or after surgery and the percentage of those who remained in the hospital longer than expected.
The data revealed that rural hospitals scored better than most other hospitals.
However, the data was adjusted to account for hospitals that treat primarily older and sicker patients.
Does Williamsport Regional Medical Center really approach patient safety any different than other hospitals?
"Every hospital strives to do their best," said Beucler. "Here, it is embedded in the culture and everyone is on board."
Added Manchester, "It's hard to come up with a specific answer, but it is a culture of safety that we established that is the guiding light for the organization."