Pen Bay Medical Center (PBMC) in Rockport was one of two hospitals in Maine that was recognized by The Leapfrog Group in early December for outstanding patient safety based on preventable medical errors, injuries, accidents and infections. The Hospital Safety Score was compiled under the guidance of the nation's leading experts on patient safety. The other top performing Maine hospital was Central Maine Medical Center (CMMC) in Lewiston.

Jeffrey Kubel, the director of pharmacy at PBMC since 1978, says computerization of records has been key to the increase in patient safety. In 2001, PBMC began computerized prescriptions, which reduced reading errors of handwritten prescriptions and cross-referenced a new prescription with other drugs previously prescribed to a patient. The system also tracks patient medical condition, including liver functions, to prevent overdosing.

In 2009, automated prescription dispensing machines were installed in PBMC units. When a nurse inputs patient identification into the machine, it is digitally cross-referenced against the patient profile. The machine then automatically dispenses the prescribed dose. Two more machines will be installed in January, according to Kubel.

In 2010, as a final safety check, nurses began scanning barcodes on patient wristbands and on prescriptions immediately before administering drugs to make sure the right person was getting the right dosage at the right time.

Leapfrog also named PBMC, CMMC, Calais Regional Hospital, Waterville's Inland Hospital, Mount Desert Island Hospital, Rumford Hospital and Sebasticook Valley Health as top-performing hospitals for quality care and affordability. To see how Maine hospitals compare nationally and locally, visit www.hospitalsafetyscore.org.