News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 18, 2013

City hospitals get passing grades for patient safety

Lisa Trigg
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Two Terre Haute hospitals have been ranked for patient safety by an independent organization that assesses safety, quality and affordability of healthcare for Americans.

Terre Haute Regional Hospital was recognized with an “A”  Hospital Safety Score by The Leapfrog Group. The score was awarded based on information reported for July 2009 through December 2011.

Union Hospital received a “C” Hospital Safety Score for the same time period, scoring better than average or among the best performing hospitals on 12 of 26 national measures of safety.

The Hospital Safety Scores are based on preventable medical errors, injuries, accidents and infections reported by the hospitals.

Regional Hospital has also received an “A” grade on two prior Hospital Safety Scores.

“It gives us a pulse check on how we’re doing as an organization,” said Sonya Rebeck, a registered nurse and Regional’s manager of quality and medical staff services, referring to the score. “Transparency is the name of the game in healthcare, so anything we can do to promote patient safety is the way we want to go.”

The “average” score received by Union Hospital, however, does not seem appropriate to Union’s chief medical officer Dr. John Bolinger, who notes that the data used is more than a year old.

“When I look at Union Hospital, I don’t consider us average. I see us above average,” Dr. Bolinger said. “If we look at real time data, I’m really proud of where we are.”

The score measures outcomes such as foreign objects retained after surgery, or air bubbes trapped in a blood vessel. Both hospitals reported zero incidents in those two areas.

However, both hospitals scored low in the areas of computerized physician order entry. But both have significantly upgraded their technology since the self-reported data was analyzed by the Leapfrog panel of medical experts.

Regional Hospital now has computerized order entry in the emergency room, Rebeck said, and it will be evolving with the remainder of the hospital physicians. It is important for legibility and to reduce errors, she said, but it does take training on the system.

“It’s going to be a journey, not something we can do overnight,” Rebeck said.

At Union Hospital, a computerized order entry system goes live in mid July. Training for physicians and staff begins June 1, Dr. Bolinger said.

Union is an innovator in using technology in patient care and assessment, he said, pointing out that the DaVinci surgery system is cutting-edge non-invasive technology while other distance technology allows a patients at associated clinics that are dozens of miles away from the hospital to be assessed for treatment by a Union specialist faster than if the patient had to travel to the hospital.

Both also scored low in the measure of intensive care unit physician staffing.

“Staffing intensivists in an intensive care unit, that’s a very, very large expense for any hospital,” said Dr. Bolinger, “and most hospitals our size can’t afford to do it.”

Rebeck said Regional Hospital is also working on its staffing of critical care physicians.

The grading system is intended to give healthcare consumers the opportunity to compare facilities, and also measures the management structures and procedures that a hospital has in place to protect its patients. Those measures include evaluation of hand hygiene, receiving antibiotics within an hour prior to surgery, and receiving the correct antibiotic. Both Union and Regional ranked among the best performing hospitals in those areas.

Dr. Bolinger said that the Leapfrog ranking is one of multiple ways of comparing hospitals using a variety of parameters and scoring systems. For instance, Consumer Reports magazine ranked Union Hospital as second best hospital in the state for patient safety last year.

“To me, the gold standard for comparing hospitals is what your local physician feels about the hospital and its safety and staff,” Dr. Bolinger said.  “We don’t get hung up on grades and scores. We continue to immerse ourselves in innovation and safety.”

To see the scores of both hospitals, as well as other hospitals around the state, go online to

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.