Susquehanna Health officials claim they have strived hard to make patient safety a priority.
Apparently, those efforts have not gone for naught as Williamsport Regional Medical Center scored the highest safety rating in the state and the fourth highest in the nation for the year 2011.
The Consumer Reports rankings come from data compiled by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, state governments and the Leapfrog Group, an independent nonprofit organization.
"I'm very proud of it," said Sue Duchman, vice president and chief nursing officer.
Duchman noted that approaches for improving patient have been in place for some time.
The data reflects the hospital's rates for patient readmissions, complications, communication, infections and the over-use of CT scans.
Overall, the hospital received a score of 72 out of 100 points.
The average score for all hospitals was 49.
Nearly 33 percent of all hopsitals nationwide were included in the rankings.
The importance of patient safety cannot be emphasized enough, according to Susquehanna Health spokeswoman Tracie Witter.
The rankings matter, she said, because hospitals are reimbursed based on quality of care rather than on number of patients.
Duchman talked about some of the ways the hospital is focusing on patient safety.
"We are always looking at re-admission rates," she said.
Health care professionals monitor certain patients after they leave the hospital. It includes telephone follow-up calls for heart failure, pneumonia and COPD patients after they're discharged.
"We know patients need additional networking," Duchman said.
Re-admission rates consider patients who returned to the hospital within 30 days of an initial discharge. Many patients become
prone to infections while in hospitals, sometimes with fatal consequences.
Again, the hospital has been ahead of the curve in trying to prevent infections, according to officials.
Project 2012 was a health systemwide expansion and buildings improvement project that included adding more private patient rooms, which help reduce infection rates.
Mandatory hand washing and observation of patient care teams also have contributed to the infection rate reduction.
"That's been very successful for us," Duchman said.
Beyond those measures, all implant patients, including knee replacement and heart valve recipients, are tracked for infections up to one year after their procedures.
Blood stream and urinary tract infections are closely monitored. For example, catheters only are kept in a patient as long as necessary, according to Duchman.
Infections associated with catheters and medical tubes are the most deadly kinds of hospital-acquired infections.
Medication safety is yet another area on which the health system has focused.
Duchman conceded that proper communication can be a key to ensuring that medicines are not used improperly.
At Williamsport Regional Medical Center, health system pharmacists interact with caregivers and patients.
"They are on the patient floors," she said.
One big reason, Duchman said, is that patients often will feel more comfortable talking with their pharmacists.
Overall, Duchman said the hospital still can improve its patient safety, especially from a communciations standpoint.
Under the same Consumer Reports' ranking, Geisinger Medical Center in Danville scored a 47.
"Patient safety is always our top concern, and we will continue to strive to provide maximum safety for patients in our care," said Geisinger spokesman Michael Ferlazzo. "While Consumer Reports rated hospitals on safety for the first time last summer, Geisinger Medical Center was just listed as one of the top hospitals for safety in the April/May issue of 'AARP The Magazine,' according to data from the Leapfrog Group Hospital Safety Score. Realizing that every rating is different in its methodology, we pay attention to all of them, and our goal is to try and improve upon hospital safety."