Quality and safety with patient satisfaction earned UMMC a B grade from Leapfrog this fall. Joe Ellis/ UMMC Photography
Quality and safety with patient satisfaction earned UMMC a B grade from Leapfrog this fall.
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UMMC earns B ranking from Leapfrog

Published on Monday, November 6, 2023

By: Annie Oeth,

Photos By: Joe Ellis and Melanie Thortis/UMMC Photography

The University of Mississippi Medical Center’s fall 2023 Leapfrog score is a B, a grade that shows the results of the Medical Center’s laser-like focus on quality care, patient outcomes and experiences. It is the highest score UMMC has ever received from Leapfrog, a national nonprofit that sets standards for excellence in patient care.

LouAnn Woodward

“UMMC’s steady improvement in quality metrics is a testament to our teams’ dedication to improving patient care and outcomes and a culture that embraces safety and accountability,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “We are on a journey of quality improvement, and this rating shows how far the Medical Center has come.”

Leapfrog is among the most commonly used public metrics for evaluating quality of care and how safe patients are at the nation’s hospitals. Scores are updated each fall and spring, considering patient safety and satisfaction. Leapfrog assigns letter grades based on over 30 national performance measures reflecting errors, accidents, injuries and infections, as well as the systems hospitals have in place to prevent harm.

UMMC joins academic medical centers such as Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville and University of North Carolina Hospitals in Chapel Hill in having a B rating. Academic medical centers that care for critically ill patients have greater challenges in reaching higher scores.

Leapfrog grading scale - Fall 2023. UMMC scored a 3.1806, a B in the safety grade scale, on a scale of hospitals ratings from 1.323 to 4.005.
UMMC's Leapfrog score is in the higher B range.

In October 2015, UMMC received an F from Leapfrog. Woodward, who had been named vice chancellor in March that year, woke to see a “big red F” on the front page of a local newspaper along with a story about UMMC’s Leapfrog score.

She kept the newspaper. “Multiple times a year I look at that, and I think what I thought back then, which was ‘Never again.’” she said. “We are not going to let this happen ever again.”

Quality improvement programs had been underway across UMMC for years, Woodward said. “But what we didn’t have was a coordinated, centralized plan and focus, and that’s what Dr. Michael Henderson brought to the team.”

Henderson joined UMMC in March 2015 as chief medical officer. Dr. Lisa Didion stepped into that role following Henderson’s retirement from the Medical Center in 2022.

“He laid out a plan and a path and brought his experience to bear,” Woodward said. “He helped us develop metrics that were measurable, that we trusted and that we all agreed were accurate. He brought a level of transparency to the process. That allowed us across the organization to change the expectations and change the accountability.”

Phyllis Bishop

Dr. Phyllis Bishop, chief quality officer, said Henderson’s data made the eight-year quality improvement journey possible. “He brought us accurate, timely, measurable data and accountability as well as a framework and timeline for improvement.”

That information is woven into the fabric of the state’s only academic medical center, Didion said.

"I think UMMC has made great strides in becoming a data-driven organization,” she said. “Understanding your data is really important, not only in monitoring your performance, but it also encourages us to hold each other accountable to our own data.”

The Medical Center had already implemented safety programs including Chasing Zero, a push for zero patient harm, and Patient Safety Week. Such efforts plus the data, Bishop said, “together have built a culture of safety at UMMC. We honestly began to believe we could be better, and we’re seeing the results of this across the Medical Center. We insisted on making quality our top priority.”

The front-page story from 2015, Woodward said, “was fuel to a fire that was already burning. Many of those efforts and the understanding that this was important were already here, but now we had a plan for how to move forward.”

Registered Nurse Alexis Gaines takes care of a patient in the PICU, where nurses won their unit a Beacon Award for Excellence from the American Associaton of Critical-Care Nurses. The award recognizes care as well as work environment and the nursing workforce. Melanie Thortis/ UMMC Photography
Registered Nurse Alexis Gaines takes care of a patient in the PICU, where nurses won their unit a Beacon Award for Excellence from the American Associaton of Critical-Care Nurses. The award recognizes care as well as work environment and the nursing workforce.

Every year since 2015, the Medical Center’s numeric scores have risen from the 2015 Leapfrog level, going from 1.846 to this year’s score of 3.1806. UMMC’s 2022 Leapfrog score was a C.

“With all the distractions we’ve had the past few years, we’ve made steady, sustained progress,” Woodward said, “and that is something to be so proud of.”

This outcome is the result of the efforts of thousands of people, Woodward said. “We are tracking things that are measurable, and we are transparent about it. There’s a different level of accountability and expectations. … Our culture changed.”

The impact of that culture change wasn’t just on the metrics measured by Leapfrog, she said. “It’s across the organization.”

Lisa Didion

Didion agrees. “UMMC has completely changed the way that it looks at its clinical quality,” she said. “It has become the number one priority of everything that we do. You can see it by the way people walk through the halls. Most importantly, you can see it by the way our patients receive their care and the outcomes that we've had.”

UMMC’s quality improvement journey includes the entire care team, said Dr. Alan Jones, associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs.

Alan Jones

“Providing the highest quality care requires the dedication and accountability of each of our employees,” Jones said. “Throughout our organization, our team members are working together to continue to improve care and patient experiences.”

Mississippi has the worst health outcomes of any state in the country, Woodward said, which makes UMMC a safety net for the most critically ill patients in the state.

“We have the sickest patients. What happens across the state is when there is a patient in another facility who is too sick to be taken care of there, those patients are transferred to us,” Woodward said. “We’re a Level I trauma center, we’re a tertiary care center, we’re an academic medical center, and we’re the only one of those in a state with the sickest patients in the nation. We take care of the sickest of the sick.”

The achievement includes care for all ages. “This is all about improving the care of our patients,” Didion said. “Whether you're in the children's hospital or you’re in the adult hospital, we want your care to be the best it can be.”

The Medical Center won’t be resting after reaching this goal, Woodward said. “We hit a milestone that we have been working toward for a long time. We have hit that milestone. We need to hit the next one. … The journey has not ended. In some ways, it’s just begun.”