Hospitals are being asked to cooperate in what amounts to a quantum leap in quality and safety reporting, by assessing their practices and answering hundreds of new questions about them. The survey process was officially unveiled last week by a Washington-based coalition of healthcare purchasers.
The Leapfrog Group's expansion of expectations has been anticipated for months (Oct. 20, 2003, p. 8). It increases by tenfold an existing focus on three safety practices that already constitute stiff challenges to the healthcare industry. Complying with the 27 new measures will require many hospital operations to fundamentally change.
But the American Hospital Association is backing the initiative and even plans to co-host national call-in sessions with a Leapfrog expert to help make the launch go smoothly. That contrasts with the AHA's dim view of Leapfrog's initial campaign for computerized physician order entry, intensive-care staffing requirements and referrals for high-risk conditions based on hospital volume or other evidence of superior performance.
The new survey emphasizes progress toward safety goals by giving partial credit to hospitals for organizing a plan to increase awareness of the safety targets, make key people accountable for achieving the targets and commit the resources required, said Charles Denham, chairman of the Texas Medical Institute of Technology. The not-for-profit medical research organization developed the survey.
That's more the approach the hospital field needs, said Nancy Foster, the AHA's senior associate director of policy. "It recognizes that patient safety is a gradual and a continual process to get to that goal," she said.
Denham and Foster will host a 90-minute phone session on May 14 to answer questions from hospital employees on how to gather and report their status to the online questionnaire, at leapfroggroup.org. The sessions will be repeated on May 21 and 28 and could continue monthly "until the demand entirely drops off," Denham said.