Annual Report Card Shows Bennington Hospital Shines at Preventing Surgical Complications

For Immediate Release
15 June 2009
Media Contact: Kevin Robinson

BENNINGTON, Vt. — An annual report card of quality, patient satisfaction, and financial measures for Vermont hospitals shows Southwestern Vermont Medical Center is leading the state in preventing complications from surgery. The report, released earlier this month, also shows that the hospital scored well on preventing infections and on other care measures.

"The report card contains useful information about hospital performance on quality of care measures," explained Alexandra Heintz, director of quality and safety. "However, the data itself is about a year old. In some cases, we have much more up-to-date information. We monitor our performance regularly because we want to continually improve. Looking at a number once a year is not good enough for our staff."

The report details hospitals' performance on seven measures known to reduce complications from surgery: for example, antibiotic timing, appropriate hair removal, and steps to prevent dangerous blood clots. The report shows that SVMC successfully completed all seven steps 96 percent of the time. That rate is the highest in Vermont, higher than the national and state averages, and even higher than the reported "achievable benchmark" of 95 percent.

"We have developed our protocol for preventing surgical complications over several years," explained Catharine Fairbanks, director of perioperative services. "It's important for patients to know that at SVMC we do all we can to make sure their surgery is safe. It's a team effort that involves our surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, and other staff. We would love to push our numbers to 100 percent."

The entire state of Vermont consistently scores well on quality of care measures. Except for heart failure care, SVMC's scores are at or above state and national averages. For heart failure care, SVMC is below the national average because it has performed poorly on discharge instructions.

Giving patients good information when they leave the hospital is key to helping them learn to care for themselves at home. For example patients with congestive heart failure need specific information that will help them manage their disease, such as how to eat a low-sodium diet, what medications they are taking, and what follow-up appointments they have. Providing patients with good discharge instructions helps keep them from returning to the hospital.

Heintz said that much of the quality data in the Act 53 Report Cards is a year old. "We monitor these quality measures very closely. For October of 2008 through April of 2009, our discharge instructions have already improved to 83 percent," she explained. "In November, our hospital launched a pilot project with the Society for Hospital Medicine to improve our entire discharge process."

The project is called BOOST. Its goal is to keep patients from returning to the hospital by improving their ability to manage their care at home.

"We were one of only six hospitals in the country chosen by the society to take part in BOOST," Heintz said. "We are nearly finished, and we expect to launch a new discharge process in late fall. Our work will serve as a model for hospitals nationwide.

"SVMC takes performance and quality improvement seriously. Project BOOST is one example of that. We also have additional internal projects designed to improve care in several other areas of the hospital," she added.

The hospital will hold a public meeting later this summer to discuss the Act 53 report card and answer questions about quality improvement. To read the report, visit


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