Nurses Alethea Stone, left, and Patty Bender go over scheduling Monday afternoon at Yampa Valley Medical Center's patient care unit. The hospital recently was recognized for patient safety.

Photo by Scott Franz

Nurses Alethea Stone, left, and Patty Bender go over scheduling Monday afternoon at Yampa Valley Medical Center's patient care unit. The hospital recently was recognized for patient safety.

Yampa Valley Medical Center earns stellar patient safety rating

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Colorado Patient Safety Excellence Award winners

Animas Surgical Hospital, Durango

Exempla Saint Joseph Hospital, Denver

McKee Medical Center, Loveland

Porter Adventist Hospital, Denver

Valley View Hospital, Glenwood Springs

Yampa Valley Medical Center, Steamboat Springs

— At 11 a.m. Monday, the typically quiet waiting area at Yampa Valley Medical Center hosted a rare party.

There wasn't a big, fancy cake, confetti or balloons.

Instead, dozens of employees, some still in their blue scrubs and holding clipboards, huddled around a large cardboard sign that proclaimed the hospital recently was rated by Healthgrades in the top 5 percent of hospitals nationwide for its patient safety.

The distinction impressed Jason Clark, a volunteer who was waiting just outside the lobby to pick up a patient at the hospital.

“For a small-town hospital to achieve that level of recognition demonstrates there's a drive for excellence here,” Clark said. “I am impressed.”

Healthgrades analyzed 4,729 hospitals across the country to see how well they were preventing serious complications that ranged from bedsores to a fractured hip following surgery.

The assessment also factored in such things as accidental punctures or lacerations as well as nightmare scenarios such as foreign objects left in the body following a surgery.

The analysis relied on a trove of data from a national Medicare database and found that 81 percent of patients at Steamboat's hospital were less likely to experience a hip fracture after surgery than average hospitals.

YVMC, a 39-bed, acute-care hospital that serves more than 51,000 outpatients annually, was one of six hospitals in Colorado to receive a Patient Safety Excellence Award and one of 379 nationwide.

With more people jumping on Google and other search engines to scout out reviews of physicians and hospitals before committing to them, YVMC's stellar patient safety rating has the potential to persuade more patients to seek treatment locally and avoid the drive to the Front Range for care, hospital officials said.

The hospital's award likely will have a large audience on the web.

Garret Spry, Healthgrades' director of community hospitals, said the organization's website attracted 225 million unique visitors last year.

Type a physician's name into Google, and a Healthgrades rating is likely to appear at or near the top of search results.

“When a patient walks through these hospital doors, they are facing a difficult and possibly scary time in their lives, but it is clear that every employee here is aiming to make the patient as comfortable as possible during their stay,” Sara Lewis, Healthgrades' director of client development, told employees at YVMC.

She said earlier that the hospitals that share the top safety award earn it by stressing constant communication between physicians and departments when a patient is treated.

“It sounds so simple, but it really is a collaboration of the entire hospital,” she said. “If physicians are changing shifts, they're talking to each other.”

The hospital's latest patient safety accolade comes a year after Consumer Reports named it the safest hospital in the state.

In the past year, YVMC has implemented three additional safety programs that span from how patients receive medicine to a mobile point-of-care testing process in the respiratory therapy department.

“This is a very important award to us, and we want to make sure people recognize we take the steps we need to take to ensure the safety of our patients,” hospital spokeswoman Rosie Kern said.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

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