Another Measure for Rating Hospital Performance Is Rolled Out

Medical consumers now have another way to gauge how well hospitals safeguard patients. Courtesy of Leapfrog, a nonprofit organization composed of businesses and organizations whose mission is to improve the quality, safety and cost-efficiency of health care, a new assessment tool is available online.

We regularly cover hospital safety issues, including how to rate hospital care and how to find the best hospital.

As reported by NPR in conjunction with Kaiser Health News, Leapfrog graded 2,651 hospitals on 26 different criteria collected by the organization from hospitals that agreed to participate and by Medicare. Measures such as hospitals’ adherence to safe practices (prompt removal of catheters, for example, to minimize infection risk) and how well they kept records of adverse events (bed sores, for example) were included.

The results: 729 hospitals got an A grade, 679 got a B and 1,111 received a C. Hospitals scoring lower were described as “grade pending,” for which 132 qualified. Ratings will be updated in six months, when the grades of D and F will be introduced.

You can look up ratings here.

Because even objective ratings are subject to interpretation and can be founded on subjective inquiry, and because this is the health-care industry in which there is no straight line from point A to point B, not everyone applauded Leapfrog’s efforts. The American Hospital Association disputed the survey, saying that Leapfrog “has supported several good quality measures but many of the measures Leapfrog uses to grade hospitals are flawed, and they do not accurately portray a picture of the safety efforts made by hospitals.”

The chief quality officer at the Cleveland Clinic objected because he said much of the data were as much as two years old, and many hospitals have improved since. Like some hospitals, Cleveland Clinic dropped out of Leapfrog’s surveys in recent years because the government began requiring more information for purposes of publication.

To design the scoring method, Leapfrog consulted with nine experts representing institutions including Johns Hopkins, the University of California, Davis and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Some high-profile institutions scored less than impressive marks. New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan and the Cleveland Clinic hospital got C grades. UCLA Ronald Reagan in Los Angeles got a “grade pending.”

But some other well-known facilities got an A, including the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, as well as several obscure community hospitals.

“The hospitals that achieved an A came from all walks of life, across the gamut of hospital types and people they serve,” said Leah Binder, Leapfrog’s executive director. “Safety appears to be something that all hospitals can choose.”

Three states-Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont-were the only ones where half of the hospitals or more got a grade of A. Half or more of the hospitals got a C or “grade pending” in 24 states and the District of Columbia. The worst performers were D.C., Oregon and New York, where at least 2 in 3 hospitals got a C or worse.

Leapfrog executives hope that groups of employers that purchase insurance will disseminate the ratings to workers and use them when selecting health care providers. You can do your own investigating on Leapfrog’s site, and at Medicare’s hospital comparison site.

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