Even before WellSpan Health actively began using the Epic electronic health record at its hospitals in 2017, Donald “Chip” Gerhart had begun the work towards developing new tools to improve the quality and safety of care provided to WellSpan patients.
“The Project One team has taken a very proactive approach to improving how Epic can help our care teams make safe and appropriately guided clinical decisions,” said Gerhart, manager, pharmacy clinical informatics. “We evaluated the data from our legacy electronic health records and used this to establish new safety features as well as make existing features that carried over more robust and meaningful.”
The safeguards that were put in place include alerting providers when they are in the process of ordering medication for a patient, limiting the items available to only those appropriate for the patient, in order to limit the chance of a mistake.
“When placing a medication order, if a provider were to inadvertently enter an inappropriate dose, a warning will pop up letting them know the dose is inappropriate for that patient based on their age or other factors,” said Gerhart. “If there’s a chance that something might be off, a warning will pop up for the physician when placing the order. It will then also pop up for the physician reviewing the order, and the nurse when they administer the order. So we have multiple levels of safety firewalls to catch any potential issues.”
Since the safeguards were put in place, Gerhart says they have seen a decrease in the number of alerts that have popped up and an increase in the rate of those alerts being recognized, which he says shows the safeguards are working.
Epic safeguards help WellSpan hospitals achieve an “A” in safety
Four WellSpan hospitals received “A” safety grades for Spring 2021 from The Leapfrog Group, a national watchdog organization of employers and other purchasers widely acknowledged as the toughest standard-setters for health care safety and quality.
WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital, WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital, WellSpan Gettysburg Hospital and WellSpan York Hospital received the “A” safety grade. The safety grades are issued twice a year, and all four hospitals also earned an “A” in the Fall 2020.
“The staff at WellSpan have an unwavering dedication to keeping our community safe, and these ‘A’ grades further demonstrate that commitment,” said Eugenia Powell, vice president, quality and patient safety at WellSpan Health. “While the COVID-19 pandemic helped shine a light on the important steps we take as a health system to keep our patients safe, it has been and will continue to be our mission to provide safe and quality care to all of our patients.
The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade assigns an “A,” “B,” “C,” “D,” or “F” grade to all general hospitals across the country and is updated every six months. It is the only hospital ratings program based exclusively on hospitals’ prevention of medical errors and other harms to patients in their care.
“An ‘A’ safety grade is an elite designation that your community should be proud of,” said Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group. “The past year has been extraordinarily difficult for hospitals, but WellSpan shows us it is possible to keep a laser focus on patients and their safety, no matter what it takes.”
Developed under the guidance of a national Expert Panel, the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade uses up to 27 measures of publicly available hospital safety data to assign grades to more than 2,700 U.S. acute-care hospitals twice per year. The Hospital Safety Grade’s methodology is peer-reviewed and fully transparent, and the results are free to the public.
While the leaders and staff at WellSpan Health are excited about the “A” safety grades, Chip Gerhart says the health system has benefited from Leapfrog beyond the high marks.
“We’ve used the lessons we’ve learned through the Leapfrog journey to help craft many of these safety measures that we’ve put in place, and how we have changed and evolved them over time,” said Gerhart. “We can contribute a number of specific safety improvements resulting from the Leapfrog evaluation process. It has helped us to open our eyes as to many opportunities available to use to continue to improve and innovate how we safely provide care for our patients.”
For more information on how WellSpan demonstrates its commitment to quality and safety, visit WellSpan.org/Quality.