Published by APP.com

New Jersey’s hospitals have cut down on avoidable errors, accidents and injuries, making them the safest in the nation, a report released Thursday by an influential watchdog group said.

Nearly 57 percent of New Jersey hospitals received an A grade for the fall, The Leapfrog Group said, compared with 34 percent who received the top grade last spring.

“They’ve really taken (safety) to another level this year and had it as a main focus,” said Adelisa Perez, director of quality for the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, an advocacy group that helped with the report.

The Leapfrog Group is a coalition of big employers and other health care purchasers trying to call attention to hospital safety practices. It hopes to prompt hospitals to cut down on what it says are preventable errors that not only harm patients but also increase costs.

It assesses more than 2,600 hospitals nationwide on safety practices, assigning letter grades by looking at 27 safety measures. Some, like hospital acquired infections, are easy to quantify. Others, like communication with doctors and nurses, come from patient surveys.

New Jersey hospitals say they have been taking the quality measures seriously. The New Jersey Hospital Association, for example, began focusing on improving safety in 2012 through a program it called the Hospital Improvement Innovation Network.

It appears to be paying off. Out of 67 hospitals that participated in the Leapfrog report, 38 received ‘A’s.’ That was 16 more than the last survey in the spring.

2017 grades: Bayshore Medical Center’s A helps NJ hospitals gain ground

2016 grades: Jersey Shore hospitals ranked by safety

2015 grades: Which Jersey Shore hospitals are safest?

“It really takes an ‘all-in’ approach to move the needle on health care quality,” said Cathy Bennett, president and chief executive officer of the New Jersey Hospital Association.

Not every hospital thrived. East Orange General Hospital received an ‘F.’ The hospital was bankrupt before it was acquired in 2016 by Prospect Medical Systems. And University Hospital in Newark received a ‘D.’

But more hospitals are in the position of Community Medical Center in Toms River. The RWJBarnabas Health facility received an ‘A’ this go around, just two years after it got a ‘C.’

Dr. Todd Phillips, vice president of quality and clinical effectiveness, has overseen the hospital’s bid to improve its safety, likening it to parents who continuously need to be on their toes to childproof their house.

The hospital, for example, set out to improve communication between its staff and patients, fearing that instructions would get lost in medical jargon, leaving its patients frustrated and dissatisfied.

In hindsight, the fix wasn’t complicated. During shift changes, a nurse now gives patient updates to their replacement in front of the patient, helping eliminate at least some potential for confusion.

“People want to do the right thing,” Phillips said of his staff. “We have to help them create an environment where they can be successful doing that.”