Hospitals show scant progress on safety

Leapfrog scores 780 hospitals 'A' and 16 hospitals 'F'
By Bernie Monegain
10:26 AM
Hospital Safety Score

An update to the Hospital Safety Score that assigns grades "A" through "F" to more than 2,500 hospitals in the United States shows they have made only incremental progress in addressing errors, accidents, injuries and infections that kill or hurt their patients. The Leapfrog Group, a hospital watchdog group, conducts the surveys.

Leapfrog Group President and CEO Leah Binder told Healthcare IT News she was “disappointed” in the slow progress. She added that the data are a year old, so she is hoping the next study will show much more improvement. Binder called on the consumers to press their hospitals for transparency and safety, and to be vigilant in healthcare settings.

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

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"The American public has to put pressure on hospitals," she said. "What that does is drive the market, and the market drives motivation, and motivation is more important than money." She added that many of the safety measures – washing hands to prevent infection, for instance, are "fairly inexpensive."

The Hospital Safety Score methodology is fully transparent, Binder notes, and it has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Journal of Patient Safety.

The Leapfrog Group is a national nonprofit organization that administers the score, confirms this has contributed to a shift in how the U.S. states are ranked for hospital safety. With 80 percent of its hospitals receiving an "A," Maine edged out Massachusetts as the number one state for safety. Joining Maine and Massachusetts in the “top five” ranking for number of "A" Scores are Minnesota, Virginia and Illinois.

[See also: HHS convenes patient safety workgroup.]

In the U.S., "roughly one in four of all hospitalized patients suffers some form of harm," according to industry studies.

"Safety is a 24/7, 365-day effort," says Binder. "This update of grades and accompanying change in state rankings should serve as a reminder that we are on an ongoing journey. Patient safety shouldn’t be merely a concern; it should be a priority. Everyone – including consumers, hospitals, patients, families of patients, unions and employers – has a role in improving safety in American hospitals."

Key findings:

  • Of the 2,514 general hospitals issued a Hospital Safety Score, 780 earned an "A," 638 earned a "B," 932 earned a "C," 148 earned a "D" and 16 earned an "F."
  • A total of 1.9 percent of hospitals showed dramatic change in their Hospital Safety Score, moving two or more grade levels up or down. Approximately 73.9 percent of hospitals maintained the same score from November 2012.
  • The states with the smallest percentage of "A" hospitals include Nevada, Kansas, Oregon, West Virginia and New Mexico, which holds the lowest percentage at 6.7 percent.
  • The largest change in an individual safety measure was the Computerized Physician Order Entry measure, which rose from 29 to 34. CPOE technology reduces the number of errors related to handwriting or transcription and provides error checking for incorrect doses and tests.
  • A range of hospitals earned "A," with no one class of hospitals (i.e., teaching hospitals, public hospitals, etc.) dominating among those showing the highest safety scores. Hospitals earning an "A" include academic medical centers Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Mayo Clinic. Many rural hospitals earned an "A," including Geisinger Medical Center and Blessing Hospital.
  • Hospitals with myriad national accolades, such as Duke University Hospital, earned an "A."
  • "A" scores were also earned by hospitals serving highly vulnerable, impoverished and/or health-challenged populations, such as Detroit Receiving Hospital.

Individuals can check their local hospital’s Hospital Safety Score online or on the free mobile app.

The Hospital Safety Score is the only standard of hospital safety accessible and free to the public. Calculated under the guidance of Leapfrog’s eight-member Blue Ribbon Expert Panel, the Hospital Safety Score methodology has been analyzed in the peer-reviewed Journal of Patient Safety. The Score uses 26 measures of publicly available hospital safety data to produce a single grade representing a hospital’s overall success in keeping patients safe from infections, injuries, and medical and medication errors.

The panel includes:

  • John Birkmeyer, University of Michigan
  • Ashish Jha, Harvard University
  • Arnold Milstein, Stanford University
  • Peter Pronovost, Johns Hopkins University
  • Patrick Romano, University of California, Davis Sara Singer (Harvard University),
  • Tim Vogus, Vanderbilt University,
  • Robert Wachter, University of California, San Francisco.
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