Rural hospitals rule on Leapfrog list

Down East Community Hospital (ME)Down East Community Hospital is one of nine Maine hospitals to achieve Leapfrog's top hospital status.

Leapfrog names top hospitals in three categories, makes criteria tougher

For the second consecutive year, rural hospitals stood out, with 22 hospitals making the Leapfrog Group’s 2013 Top Hospitals list – a 69 percent increase from last year. Rounding out the list are 55 urban hospitals and 13 children’s hospitals. To qualify for the award, eligible hospitals must also earn an "A" from Leapfrog’s Hospital Safety Score, which grades hospitals based on expert analysis of infections, injuries and medical errors.

Leapfrog, a healthcare watchdog, announced its list of top hospitals Dec. 3 at its annual meeting, highlighting the diversity of hospitals represented nationwide.

The Top Hospitals designation recognizes hospitals that deliver the highest quality care by preventing medical errors, reducing mortality for high-risk procedures, such as heart bypass surgery, and reducing readmissions for patients being treated for conditions such as pneumonia and heart attack.

Many of the recognized quality measures and practices are underpinned by the use of health information technology.

"The field of hospitals considered for this year’s elite distinction was more competitive than ever, proving that more hospitals across the country are making quality their top priority," Leah Binder, president and CEO of Leapfrog, said in a news release. "The larger group of rural hospitals represented, including several critical access hospitals, shows us that any hospital in America can achieve the highest standards of quality and safety, and any community, no matter how small, can benefit from top-notch healthcare."

As it did for the other categories, Leapfrog set the bar higher for rural hospitals this year, Erica Mobley, Leapfrog’s senior communications director, told Healthcare IT News. "It’s really exciting to see these hospitals doing so well at providing high quality and safe care, regardless of all the obstacles they may be faced with," Mobley said.

"We set the criteria even higher, and we still had so many hospitals getting the award – and a lot of hospitals that are receiving this award for the first time," Mobley added.

[See also: Leapfrog grades hospitals A to F on patient safety.]

The 2013 Top Hospitals list was closely culled from a record number of 1,324 hospitals voluntarily participating in the Leapfrog Hospital Survey. While several agencies and organizations collect and publicize hospital quality data, the Leapfrog Hospital Survey sets the highest bar for comparing hospitals' performance on the national standards of safety, quality and efficiency that are most relevant to consumers and purchasers of care, Mobley said.

"The Leapfrog survey is a voluntary survey that hospitals can choose to complete, and just by the nature of completing the survey, they’re demonstrating their commitment and transparency because we publicly report all results good or bad on our website," she noted.

The survey provides a picture of how patients fare, what resources are used to care for patients and how management promotes safety and quality. 

[See also: Aetna to cite Leapfrog safety scores.]

Demonstrating the highest standards in quality of care and resource use, Top Hospitals have lower infection rates, higher survival rates for high-risk procedures, decreased length of stay and fewer readmissions. This year's list includes more than 40 hospitals receiving the award for the first time. Other highlights: The state of Missouri makes its first appearance on the list with Mercy Hospital in St. Louis; Colorado received its second Top Hospitals designation with East Morgan County Hospital; and Maine has the most number of Top Rural Hospitals – nine.

2013 top hospitals on next page.

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