Healthcare News & Insights

Leapfrog Group updates hospital safety scores

skd282694sdcThe Leapfrog Group, a healthcare safety watchdog organization, has just released the fall update to its Hospital Safety Score. And while hospitals have made recent improvements, there’s still a long way to go.

Out of all the hospitals the Leapfrog Group reviewed, the largest number earned C grades (868), but a significant number also achieved high marks, with 790 hospitals earning As and 688 achieving Bs, according to a press release about the scores.

Maine had the most hospitals that earned As, and hospitals in several states performed well enough to move up in the A rankings, including Florida and Wisconsin. Only two areas rated had no hospitals with A grades: Washington D.C. and North Dakota. (Maryland isn’t included in the rankings because its hospitals are exempt from reporting under special guidelines.)

More positive news: Since the spring, hospitals have made strides toward improving their performance when it comes to implementing safe practices. Out of the thousands of hospitals reviewed, most showed progress toward improving factors such as medication reconciliation, hand washing rates and staffing in the ICU.

But patient outcomes aren’t quite where they should be. In fact, the performance of some hospitals actually declined when it came to key measures, such as the prevention of surgical site infections for major colon surgery. The only measure where hospitals improved patient outcomes was in preventing central line-associated bloodstream infections in the ICU.

Reviewing safety data

If your hospital wants to see where it ranks against its peers, the Leapfrog Group has made some changes to its website, hospitalsafetyscore.org. While the updates were designed to make the site more patient-friendly, they also paint a simpler picture of a hospital’s performance for facilities who want a quick glance at their ranking for comparison purposes.

The basic search function on the site is the same, but hospitals’ final grades are more prominent on the results. And clicking on the grade, the hospital’s name or the “View the full score” link will display a different page about the hospital with more detailed information about the score.

On this page, people can view safety information about each hospital under five categories:

  • Safety Problems with Surgery
  • Staff Follows Steps to Make Surgery Safer
  • Infections and Safety Problems
  • Right Staffing to Prevent Safety Problems, and
  • Hospital Uses Standard Safety Procedures.

In addition, the page gives visitors a better idea of how each hospital performed against other hospitals across the country in the measures for each category. And the site has a clear definition of each measure to give visitors a clearer idea of what the scores mean. Selecting a category will display the hospital’s score in the category, along with the best, average and worst scores other hospitals earned for each measure.

There’s also a color-coded meter on the page. If a hospital is in the green area, it scored above average. Yellow means the hospital ranked as average, and red means it earned a below average score.

If you’d rather see your hospital’s data displayed in the old table format instead, there’s a “Detailed table view” option underneath the letter score. Click on this link, and you’ll see a table with all 28 measures the Leapfrog Group used to get its data. Patient outcome measures are at the top, and care process measures are listed further down the page.

Beware of limitations

While the scores are a great way to get a general idea of how your hospital is performing regarding safety measures, even the Leapfrog Group cautions that it’s not a full picture.

Example: Texas Health Presbyterian, the hospital where two nurses contracted the Ebola virus after treating a patient, received an A rating for patient safety.

This is a good lesson: No matter how well you perform in safety rankings, there’s always room for improvement, whether it’s for common safety events or more specialized illnesses. It’s also a good reminder that a safety score isn’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to a hospital’s effectiveness at treating patients.

Because this data is public and available to potential patients, it may be a good idea to tell staff to be on the lookout for patient questions regarding your facility’s safety score and to be prepared to give them perspective about how the score is calculated.

And for facilities that want to improve their safety performance overall, the Joint Commission’s new safety guidance may be a good starting point for evaluating your hospital’s general safety culture.

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