The Leapfrog Group is out with its second round of hospital safety ratings, and what a difference a few months has made.
In the results released Nov. 28, 103 hospitals that Leapfrog had given a “C” or lower in its first round of ratings in June got an “A” in the updated Hospital Safety Score, based on more recent data and a slightly tweaked methodology. These included New York-Presbyterian Hospital, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Geisinger Medical Center.
Two hospitals awarded an “A” in the first round, Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center in Houma, La., and Lawrence General Hospital in Lawrence, Mass., both slipped to a “D.”
Altogether, 8 percent of the 2,619 hospitals that Leapfrog rated changed by two or more grades, like an “A” to a “C,” according to Leapfrog, a patient safety nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. Thirty-four percent changed one grade, like a “C” to a “B,” and 58 percent kept the same grade, Leapfrog said.
Leapfrog’s effort to provide a single letter grade based on 26 different measures of safety is part of a burgeoning effort to help consumers evaluate medical providers. Consumer Reports this year also started boiling down hospital metrics into its signature circular symbols, known as “Harvey Balls.”
In its first effort, Leapfrog gave a break to hospitals with poor showings, giving them a “Grade Pending.” This time, Leapfrog pulled out its red pen, giving 25 hospitals an “F,” including the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. Another 122 hospitals got a “D.” Leapfrog gave 490 hospitals an “A,” and 678 received a “B.” Leapfrog gave 1,004 hospitals a “C.”
Leapfrog calculated its grades using publicly-available data, including the frequency of blood line infections, falls in the hospital, bedsores and the consistency that hospitals follow recommended methods of care, such as discontinuing an antibiotic within 24 hours of surgery.
Leapfrog’s effort has earned grumbles from hospitals, which note that much of the data is old, with some of it dating to events from as far back as July 2009. Hospitals also have complained Leapfrog incorporates its own survey in its evaluations, although the organization says that doesn’t disadvantage hospitals that don’t fill them out.
Dr. Shannon Phillips, patient safety officer at The Cleveland Clinic — which saw its grade slip from a “C” to a “D” — said the Clinic “has seen measurable improvement month after month,” so Leapfrog’s evaluation is now outdated.
Phillips said the grades are of no help to hospitals since they are already aware of the underlying measures, which Medicare calculates and publishes. “It’s repackaging of data the public and we already have,” she said.
Leah Binder, Leapfrog’s chief executive officer, said the ratings will help companies and other health care purchasers as they try to educate their employees to select services with the highest value. “When a person or employee looks at comparative pricing information, they assume the highest price is the highest quality,” she said. Leapfrog’s grade is “something that can be incorporated pretty easily into pricing transparency,” she said.