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Leapfrog President and CEO Leah Binder

Hospitals improve safety scores, but many lag: Leapfrog

By Steven Ross Johnson
Posted: April 29, 2014 - 1:00 pm ET

The Leapfrog Group's latest round of safety scores shows nearly a third of hospitals improving their performance at least 10% since 2012, but the organization says too many hospitals continue to fall short.

The letter grades from the Leapfrog group, a not-for-profit organization that represents large employers and other healthcare purchasers, have been a source of frustration for hospitals that don't do well, whose leaders argue that the scores unfairly portray the quality of care at their facilities.

The Hospital Safety Score has been issued twice a year based on an analysis of publicly available safety data from CMS' Hospital Compare, the American Hospital Association and the Leapfrog Group's annual hospital survey.

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In the latest report card:
  • 804 hospitals received an A.
  • 668 hospitals received a B.
  • 878 hospitals received a C.
  • 150 received a D.
  • 22 hospitals received an F.

The average (mean) hospital performance improved 6.3% since the score was launched in June 2012.

“The data tells us that more hospitals are working harder to create a safe environment,” Leapfrog President and CEO Leah Binder said. “And that's good news for all of us as patients and Americans.”

Despite the progress, Binder said, hospitals must remain vigilant in their efforts to reduce medical errors, which is estimated to result in more than 400,000 patient deaths a year, according to the findings of a study published last September in the Journal of Patient Safety.

Leapfrog also ranks states based on the percentage of A-rated hospitals. Maine ranked first, with 74% of its 19 hospitals receiving the highest grade. Not a single a hospital in Alaska, the District of Columbia, Idaho, Nebraska or Wyoming received an A. (Maryland hospitals are not included because of insufficient data.)

Some 53 hospitals changed their previous score by two or more grades since they were last scored in October. While some providers such as Ashland, Ky.-based King's Daughters Medical Center saw significant improvement—going from a C in 2013 to an A in the latest score—others saw their grade drop just as far. Southwest Medical Center in Liberal, Kan., went from a B to a D.

Critics of the safety rating program, including the authors of an article published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine in January, argue that Leapfrog's scoring system is biased against the nearly half of the more than 2,500 hospitals who chose not to participate in Leapfrog's survey.

“Leapfrog is one of numerous organizations that provide reports and rankings of hospital performance," Nancy Foster, the American Hospital Association's vice president of quality and patient safety policy, said in an e-mail. "These organizations use different quality measures, performance data and methodologies to calculate scores, some of which are more reliable than others. Hospitals are using the reliable quality measurement data that is available to drive improvement and that has resulted in decreases in readmissions, decreases in early elective deliveries, decreases in infection rates and other significant improvements.”

Follow Steven Ross Johnson on Twitter: @MHsjohnson

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