Leapfrog scores hospitals for safety

By Bernie Monegain
11:26 AM

1,243 hospitals earn a C or below

WASHINGTON – A new report card from healthcare watchdog The Leapfrog Group ranks hospitals for patient safety – A through F. Not everyone makes the grade. Infections, medication and medical errors and injuries are still rampant, according to Leapfrog's survey.

Massachusetts hospitals ranked high. Those in the nation's capitol had the lowest average scores. Hospitals with top grades – 11 Kaiser hospitals and MemorialCare Health System in California among them - quickly issued news releases announcing their position. Those near the bottom of the scale did not.

"A" scores were awarded to for-profit hospitals including many in the HCA systems, as well as hundreds of not-for-profit and public hospitals. Community hospitals showed excellence as well, such as OSF St. Joseph Medical Center in Illinois.

A blue ribbon panel of patient safety experts provided guidance to the Leapfrog Group, an independent national nonprofit run by employers and other large purchasers of health benefits, to develop the Hospital Safety Score (http://hospitalsafetyscore.org/). The Hospital Safety Score is calculated using publicly available data on patient injuries, medical and medication errors, and infections. With this new initiative, Leapfrog will score more than 2,600 hospitals.

"The Leapfrog Group’s goal is to give patients the vital information they need and deserve before even entering a hospital," said Leah Binder, president and CEO of the Leapfrog Group. "We hope people will use this score to talk with their doctor, make informed decisions about where to seek care, and take the right precautions during a hospital stay."

"The Hospital Safety Score exclusively measures safety – meaning errors, accidents, and infections," said Ashish Jha, MD, of Harvard, a member of the blue ribbon expert panel. "Even hospitals with excellent programs for surgical and medical care, state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment, and dedicated physicians may still need this score as a reminder that patient safety should be a top priority."

The Hospital Safety Score will highlight the country’s best hospitals and warn against the worst to save lives and bring attention to the nation’s silent safety epidemic, Binder said, noting that according to recent studies, one in four Medicare patients will leave a hospital with a potentially fatal issue they didn’t have prior to hospitalization. On average, one medication error per day occurs for each hospitalized patient, and more than 180,000 Americans die every year from hospital accidents, errors, and infections.

"The Leapfrog Group board has been frustrated with the lack of progress in improving patient safety, despite significant industry efforts over the past decade," said David Knowlton, immediate past chair of the Leapfrog Group Board of Directors and chair of the Leapfrog Group’s Patient Safety Committee. "It is time for a game changer. It’s time to give American families the heads-up they need to protect themselves if they face the need for a hospital stay."

The Hospital Safety Score will be reissued using updated data in November 2012, with an annual Hospital Safety Score to follow in 2013 and beyond.