Letter: Clarifying the Record on NARH

In the Oct. 24 issue of the Record, an article on healthcare services in northern Berkshire County left misleading impressions about the quality of care delivered at North Adams Regional Hospital (NARH).

NARH recognizes that not all patient experiences are optimal, and we work continually to improve the quality and safety of care delivered at NARH. In fact, the hospital meets or exceeds many of the national quality measures used as benchmarks for standards of care.

The Record noted briefly that NARH’s ranking by the Leapfrog Group was below the median, but failed to present any context. The Leapfrog Group asks hospitals to assess their own compliance with a set of practices. One of the three components of the Leapfrog Group is an expectation of having 24-hour “intensivist” coverage in critical care units. (Intensivists are physicians who are specifically trained in treatment of critical care patients.)

However, due to relatively low volumes in our critical care unit, NARH cannot support 24-hour coverage by intensivists. The hospital does, however, employ hospitalists (doctors who are trained in the care of hospital inpatients) who are available 24 hours a day.

NARH is also making progress on another of Leapfrog’s measures, the development of computerized physician order entry (CPOE). The third and final component of Leapfrog is a series of “Safe Practices.” Hospitals report progress towards each of these practices. Our score reflects progress on all of them with continued efforts needed that range from documenting training and education to updating policies.

Beyond the Leapfrog Group, NARH participates in several quality reporting systems that monitor clinical outcomes. Chief among those are the Joint Commission’s Quality Check (www.qualitycheck.org) and Hospital Compare (www.hospitalcompare.org). In almost every quality measure, NARH meets or exceeds benchmarks. Some examples:

• Aspirin at arrival for heart attack patients: 100 percent

• Beta blocker prescribed at discharge for heart attack patients: 100 percent

• Smoking cessation counseling for heart attack patients: 100 percent

• Surgical patients given appropriate antibiotics: 98 percent (above national averages)

• Oxygenation assessment of pneumonia patients: 100 percent

• Antibiotics discontinued within 24 hours after surgery: 97 percent

Additionally, the American Heart Association (AHA) recently recognized NARH for our performance in the Get With the Guidelines program. The AHA presented NARH with two awards for excellent performance in the treatment of coronary artery disease and heart failure.

Finally, NARH has a comprehensive system to document and respond to patient complaints. We have a procedure in place to follow up on every patient experience; we actively seek out patients whose experiences were less than optimal, and make every effort to learn from those experiences.

We welcome this opportunity to clarify the record.

Paul Hopkins

Director of Community Relations

Northern Berkshire Healthcare

Editor’s note: Due to technical problems with the Record Web site, this letter was not received in time for publication in the Oct. 31 issue.