Published on November 08, 2018

Medical Center Raises Grade in Patient Safety

With a commitment to quality and patient safety, MidMichigan Medical Center – Alpena has raised its grade from a ‘C’ to a ‘B’ in patient safety from The Leapfrog Group for the Fall 2018 Hospital Safety Grade. Alpena’s ‘B’ is an increase from its ‘C’ grade for the Spring 2018 rating period. The Hospital Safety Grade is the gold standard rating for patient safety, compiled under the guidance of the nation’s leading patient safety experts and administered by The Leapfrog Group, a national patient safety watchdog.

“We are extremely proud to have raised our grade to a “B” from Leapfrog – an organization that sets some of the highest standards in health care,” said Chuck Sherwin, president, MidMichigan Medical Center – Alpena. “Each year we learn through Leapfrog how our performance compares to the best in the nation. And, with our affiliation with MidMichigan Health and its partnership with Michigan Medicine, we have been able to improve care and efficiencies, adopt best practices, and increase access to care for the communities we serve. We are all working hard to implement changes that are making a difference.”

Areas of success since the Spring 2018 Leapfrog grade include three categories tracked by Leapfrog related to complications that can be associated with surgeries (pneumothorax, wound dehiscence and respiratory failure).

“With the implementation of Epic, our electronic medical record, we have new best practice alerts imbedded that help us identify warning signs of potential complications for such issues as sepsis and respiratory depression related to pain medications,” said Deb Pokorzynski, vice president of nursing, MidMichigan Medical Center – Alpena. “In addition, we continuously work to improve communication among members of the care team and have implemented hospital-wide safety briefings, as well as huddles on nursing units where we review safety risks to our patients every morning and on every shift. “

According the Sherwin, the team anticipated areas of opportunity and has made great strides since the last Leapfrog data collection period.

One such effort included offsetting a weakness in the bar code medication administration system. To ensure patient safety, Medical Center nurses and pharmacists have strengthened the process in place to reconfirm that each patient does not have an allergy to a medication that has been ordered. Another area of focus has been physician staffing in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

“For the time period measured by the Leapfrog survey, we had one physician certified in critical care medicine; however, a second physician has joined our team, moving us toward Leapfrog’s high expectations,” said Sherwin. “In addition, hospital -based physicians are in house 24 hours per day, 7 days per week and respond immediately to the critical care needs of our patients. We are also leveraging telehealth technology, which gives us access to specialists within MidMichigan Health.”

In addition to the areas of bar code medication administration and physician staffing in the ICU, MidMichigan Medical Center – Alpena is continuously improving handwashing practices.

“Infection-related measures are a large component of the Leapfrog safety grade that we monitor closely. In Alpena, we have reduced infections by 12 percent over last year and are on trend again this year to see similar improvement,” said Thomas Thornton, M.D., vice president of medical affairs, MidMichigan Medical Center – Alpena.  “We have also found opportunities to strengthen our documentation and have developed new testing procedures for C. difficile infections.”

Developed under the guidance of an Expert Panel, the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade uses 27 measures of publicly available hospital safety data to assign A, B, C, D and F grades to approximately 2,500 U.S. hospitals twice per year. It is calculated by top patient safety experts, peer-reviewed, fully transparent and free to the public.

“Success at creating an excellent patient experience is more than a list of honors, scores and awards; the recognition is just a small part of the big picture of quality efforts that never stop,” Sherwin concluded. “As our organization continues to grow, the bar is raised with the focus set on quality and safety. Our efforts have resulted in better outcomes for our patients and have helped improve our overall performance. Our patients are the number one reason we focus on quality.”

Those interested in viewing the full grades may visit


About The Leapfrog Group
Founded in 2000 by large employers and other purchasers, The Leapfrog Group is a national nonprofit organization driving a movement for giant leaps forward in the quality and safety of American health care. The flagship Leapfrog Hospital Survey collects and transparently reports hospital performance, empowering purchasers to find the highest-value care and giving consumers the lifesaving information they need to make informed decisions. The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade, Leapfrog’s other main initiative assigns letter grades to hospitals based on their record of patient safety, helping consumers protect themselves and their families from errors, injuries, accidents, and infections.