Patient safety improvements remain sluggish


Hospital Safety Scores released last week by The Leapfrog Group, show key shifts among many hospitals on the letter grades rating them on errors, injuries, accidents, and infections.

Of the 28 measures used to calculate the A, B, C, D or F grades, on average, hospital performance improved on eight measures, but average performance declined on six measures. 

But there are more encouraging signs within the data, notably hospitals taking steps to make safety a priority, and showing some encouraging results—either by consistently maintaining an “A” score, or by raising a lower score to an “A” over time. Since the launch of the Hospital Safety Score in 2012, 133 hospitals have earned an “A” in each of the twice-annual updates of the score—approximately 5 percent of all graded hospitals.

“Taking a deeper look at the 133 ‘Straight A’ hospitals reveals a diverse group, similar only in their consistent commitment to patient safety. Hospitals from across the country, with 100 beds to over 750 beds, non-profit and for-profit alike received this top honor,” said Leah Binder, president and chief executive officer of The Leapfrog Group, which issues the Hospital Safety Score.

“No matter how large or small, no matter what kind of community they serve, all hospitals have the potential to give their patients this high level of safe care.”

Included in the list of “Straight A” hospitals are three hospitals in the Baptist Health South Florida system, Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center and University of Chicago Medical Center, and Baystate Medical Center and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Massachusetts. 

Binder observed that among hospitals without a perfect track record there are hospitals showing significant improvement.

Beckley ARH Hospital, part of the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System in Beckley, West Virginia made one of the most significant jumps ever indicated in the Hospital Safety Score data. From receiving a “D” in Spring 2015, they now are receiving an “A” grade for keeping their patients safe.

This hospital now has top scores in Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE) and all five measures of safe surgical practices (Surgical Care Improvement Program measures). They also made radical improvements in their scores on falls and trauma, the five patients safety indicator measures, and have a rate of zero for central line infections. 

“Although no hospital is perfect, our family members, neighbors and colleagues deserve the safest care possible,” Binder added. “We urge consumers to put safety first when planning a hospital stay, and we urge hospitals to double down on their commitment to safety.” 

Despite the powerful stories of improving and high-performing hospitals, improvement across the board remains elusive. The Fall 2015 update shows a number of positive trends for certain hospital-acquired conditions and safety measures, but hospitals are performing worse on critical measures like foreign objects left in after surgery. Overall, performance on safe practices and process measures varied greatly. 

The Leapfrog Group, US, Leah Binder, Safety Scores