Bridgton Hospital: Best place to get care in Maine

By Gail Geraghty
Staff Writer

Bridgton Hospital was recently named one of the best places to work in Maine. But did you know that, from the patients’ own point of view, it also is one of the best places to get care in Maine?

Since 2006, the 25-bed critical access hospital has consistently ranked in the 90th percentile or above nationally in the 10 publicly reported categories of patient satisfaction as a result of a hospital stay. In three of those 10 categories, Bridgton Hospital achieved the state’s highest score.

“It’s the best-kept secret in the Lakes Region,” said hospital President David Frum. When he took over from his predecessor, John Carlson, four months ago and began talking to organizations and folks around town, “I was surprised the community didn’t know more about it.”

Bridgton Hospital ranked as the state’s highest-scoring hospital in terms of how well both nurses and doctors communicate with patients, as well as the quality of the discharge instructions that are provided. It also performed better than 90% of the hospitals in the country nationally in terms of such other measures as communication about medicines, pain management, responsiveness of hospital staff and its overall hospital rating.

Locally, the results show Bridgton Hospital consistently outperforms other hospitals in the region, including Stephens Memorial Hospital and Maine Medical Center.

The results are posted online at www.hospitalcompare.gov, as part of a national survey that asks patients about their experiences during their recent hospital stay. Like all other hospitals in the state, Bridgton Hospital must report this information to the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems, or HCAHPS, a database including around 455 hospitals maintained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Within two weeks after a patient is discharged from Bridgton Hospital, they are sent the patient satisfaction survey. The patients are asked about every aspect of their hospital stay, and the results are tabulated and submitted by a third party business, NRC Picker.

“To realize that this asset is performing from a patient satisfaction standpoint better than 90% of the hospitals in the country is a pretty neat thing,” said Frum. “Do we rest on that? No. But we regularly get letters of compliment.”

One such letter was mailed Nov. 30 from a chronic cardiac patient, Alan Lapidus of Naples, who ended up in the emergency room with chest pains:

“Every medical professional, nurses, doctors and technicians, demonstrated not only medical and technical expertise, but also a concerned and caring attitude that, in conjunction with the medical care, gave a very concerned patient the reassurance that is so essential in this type of situation,” Lapidus wrote. “As someone who retired to this community eight years ago from New York City, I know the difference between processing a patient, and treating a patient.”

Frum said patient satisfaction is one leg of a three-legged stool, with cost control and quality of care comprising the other two legs. HCAHPS also provides data on quality of care, and Bridgton Hospital does well in this area as well.

“Our infection control rate is below 1% and has been consistently,” said Helen Twombly, the hospital’s clinical coordinator for quality and infection control. The national standard is around 5 or 6%. “We have a very few infections based on the number of surgeries.”

Frum said achieving such positive results isn’t something that just happens overnight. The hospital staff has worked very hard over the years on such a simple but essential practice as using proper hand-washing hygiene.

“This is an institution that is really fanatic about the hospital experience,” said Frum. “It’s in the fiber of this place. And it really does pervade the organization from the top down.”

When an area is identified that needs improvement, the hospital has a formal system in place to deal with it, said Kathy Wohlenberg, director of quality and case management. One such area was the quietness of the hospital environment for patients, especially at night.

We actually put up a yaka-tracker,” a monitor in the hall and at the nursing unit, to make the staff aware of how much noise their conversations were generating, Wohlenberg said. “It was amazing the effect that it had. And our results greatly improved.”

Frum said he’s lucky to have inherited such a well-ingrained culture of focused attention on quality care — particularly as hospitals around the country position themselves to meet new requirements in the Health Care Reform Act. Under its rules, the Act provides by 2013-2014 that hospitals will be either penalized or given a premium based on the strength of their “three-legged stool” — cost control, quality of care and patient satisfaction.

“This is an institution that is well positioned for health care reform, because the three legs of its stool are healthy,” Frum said. “We’ve had people here for years, and it’s in their cultural makeup to attend to the needs of the patients. It really does pervade the organization from the top down.”

Frum said being ranked the best in the state is going to become more of “a moving target” in coming years, as other hospitals ramp up their efforts to improve their rankings to avoid being penalized financially.

“We’re very proud of our rankings, but one of my goals is that we perennially become the best in all 10 categories,” he said. “There’s a monetary benefit, but we want to treat our patients well — that’s the real driver.”

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