Sonoma Valley Hospital earns kudos for safety

Sonoma’s little hospital has just received a big honor.

The accolade comes via Consumer Reports magazine which, after surveying 2,591 hospitals across the United States has proclaimed Sonoma Valley Hospital among the 15 safest in the country.

“We were shocked and excited” to hear the news, said hospital CEO Kelly Mather. “We’ve been working on this culture of safety for three years, and it worked.”

Mather was referring to the hospital’s “Good Catch Program,” which rewards employees for noticing and reporting safety issues at SVH. The program has resulted in “heightened awareness,” she said, as employees are lauded for making SVH a safer place for patients.

“We have at least a dozen good catches that we celebrated with staff in the last year-and-a-half,” Mather said.

According to the report, to be published in the magazine’s May issue, an estimated 440,000 deaths each year are attributable to hospital errors – from misdiagnoses, to infections, to administering the wrong drugs. The number, if accurate, accounts for more than half of all hospital deaths in the U.S., the magazine states.

But the analysis found that some hospitals are markedly better than others at avoiding these mistakes – and Sonoma Valley Hospital is among them.

“Top hospitals are spread across the country, in suburbs, rural areas, and big cities,” the article states. “The message: success can happen anywhere.”

Consumer Reports, in collaboration with Patient Safety America, rated the hospitals in five main categories of safety: mortality, readmission, scanning, infections and communication. (See sidebar for explanations of each category.) Scores from 1 to 100 were given in each category, and a combined score generated from there. All data came from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The analysis resulted in a score of 73 for SVH, one of the highest. Sebastopol’s Palm Drive Hospital also made the top 15 with a score of 74. For comparison, the lowest-scoring hospital, Bolivar Medical Center of Cleveland, Miss., was given an 11. Full rankings can be found at consumerreports.org/hospital ratings.

Mather said there was a time, not long ago, when health care professionals were more inclined to ignore their mistakes. “That used to be the culture, in all hospitals,” she said. “But that’s gone.”

Besides heightened awareness, technology has helped make SVH safer as well. Mather said the Electronic Health Record system, implemented in 2012, “had a huge impact.”

Today, patients wear armbands that are scanned in by nurses and doctors, guaranteeing they have the right patient and that the right drugs and procedures are being administered. The device automatically screens the drugs in order to prevent bad reactions or interactions, “So it’s much more systemized,” Mather said.

She credited hospital Chief Information Officer Fe Sendaydiego, and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Cohen, for their success in implementing the Electronic Health Record system, and Chris Kutza, Leslie Lovejoy, Courtney McMahon, Lorna Gantenbein and Cindi Newman for their work on improving the hospital’s “culture of safety.”

Mather said the administration plans to celebrate with hospital staff in May.