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Hospitals Get New Grades On Safety

By Jordan Rau

November 28th, 2012, 5:55 AM

Updated at 9:35 a.m.

The Leapfrog Group is out with its second round of hospital safety ratings, and what a difference a few months has made.

Photo by Phil Jern via Flickr

In the results released Wednesday, 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 790 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.

The individual hospital scores can be looked up on Leapfrog’s web site. A breakdown of how hospitals in each state did as tabulated by Kaiser Health News is below.  Maryland hospitals are not listed, because Medicare does not collect the same data from that state’s hospitals due to a unique arrangement with the federal government.

Number of Hospitals Receiving Each Grade for Patient Safety
StateABCDF
AK1212
AL12132541
AR3522
AZ1110145
CA925680144
CO131115
CT6913
DC142
DE321
FL6138498
GA11273241
HI1441
IA108111
ID12511
IL51312835
IN1531161
KS311145
KY1220211
LA8132931
MA50451
ME1631
MI3725221
MN2014121
MO18113031
MS8818
MT343
NC2029262
ND3111
NE3311
NH256
NJ2322241
NM1571
NV25121
NY33387016
OH3523458
OK312223
OR4101421
PA3729591
RI243
SC14111912
SD2151
TN2518213
TX524491165
UT34111
VA30162121
VT312
WA1315141
WI101224
WV25172
WY134
Grand Total790678100412225
Source: Leapfrog Group

9 Responses to “Hospitals Get New Grades On Safety”

  1. Lance says:

    Grading for safety? It’s a start, but we seem to be moving at a snail’s pace. Bottom line? We need much more hospital scrutiny! I’d like to see a similar grading system for hospital readmissions.

  2. Steven says:

    What happened to Maryland? It looks like it is the only state missing?

  3. Brad says:

    Did Maryland succeed in secession?

  4. Bonnie says:

    Last sentence says “Maryland hospitals are not listed, because Medicare does not collect the same data from that state’s hospitals due to a unique arrangement with the federal government.”

  5. julie says:

    Maryland regulates hospital prices – it’s the only state to do so. I suspect that the state does the quality monitoring rather than Medicare. Hence, the unique arrangement reference.

  6. lois says:

    Why are you using data that dates all the way back to 2009? A lot can change since then.

  7. Duane says:

    Why get new grades? The checks cleared.

    Grades for Leapfrog are based on payment. Period.

  8. J Thomas says:

    What’s wrong with Leapfrogs methodology? Almost all Registries and Organizations that evaluate hospitals use old data. The reason for using old data is simple, the data is FINAL and the records are closed, or how I like to say, it’s the cleanest data available.

  9. Diane says:

    Maryland is the only state in the country that does not report to CMS in the standard that all other states follow; the state was grandfathered into receiving payments from CMS via a different reporting system. Because the data comprising the Safety Score comes from publically available data on the national scale and Maryland does not have any of this data, Leapfrog was not able to give any hospitals in the state a Safety Score. There are a few hospitals in the state that report to the Leapfrog Hospital Survey, but without data from CMS, Leapfrog did not have enough data to accurately supply them with a score.

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