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UPMC Altoona, a Triumph in Infection Prevention: Earning ‘A’ Ratings in Hospital Safety

UPMC Altoona has achieved an impressive ‘A’ for Hospital Safety from The Leapfrog Group this fall, demonstrating the hospital’s enduring commitment to quality healthcare and infection prevention. This non-profit watchdog organization, based in Washington, D.C., champions transparency in healthcare, awarding this recognition to the hospital twice yearly since Fall 2018. This recent achievement is also celebrated by UPMCs Bedford, Somerset and Western Maryland, which have similarly received ‘A’ ratings this fall.

The Leapfrog’s evaluative dashboard grades hospitals on a traffic-light system of red, yellow, and green relating to their performance in fields such as infection control, surgical procedures, safety protocols, error prevention, and patient-staff interactions. Each field also contains several sub-categories, rounding off to 32 performance measures in total. For this assessment period, UPMC Altoona demonstrated a majority of green in 16 areas, against eight each for yellow and red. With a five-out-of-six green score, error prevention was a standout area, followed closely by safety. The hospital also performed reasonably in the areas of surgical procedures and infection control but requires improvement in the patient-staff interaction aspect.

Dr. David Burwell, the chief quality officer for UPMC, found the results most rewarding in the safety and error prevention sectors. This success can be attributed to the ‘team-based approach’, led by department heads in disciplines including the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and the infection prevention and pharmacy teams. These daily discussions and resultant refining of safety practices ensure the wellbeing of the most vulnerable. This approach has cultivated a ‘culture of safety’ that encourages proactive measures and open dialogue on all patient safety-related concerns in the hospital. Hand hygiene, for instance, has been a critical part of this culture transformation. This practice is frequently observed and enforced across the facility. The goal is to integrate these best practices into the regular routine for all staff.

UPMC Altoona is also investing considerable efforts towards reducing hospital-acquired infections and enhancing patient experiences, particularly their interactions with doctors and nurses. The significant role of these efforts is highlighted by the Leapfrog Group’s data, stating that death risk escalates by 34%, 87%, and 91% for patients admitted in ‘B’, ‘C’, and ‘D’ or ‘F’-rated hospitals respectively. This data underscores the importance of UPMC Altoona’s focus towards meeting and exceeding healthcare delivery standards.


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