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Hospital Safety Scores Report Indicates Avoidable Deaths Remain High

April 26, 2016
by Heather Landi
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There is a 50 percent higher risk of avoidable death at a hospital that received a Hospital Safety Score of D or F compared to hospitals that have received A grades, according to the Leapfrog Group's newly updated hospital safety scores.

The Leapfrog Group announced this week the Spring 2016 Hospital Safety Score update, assigning letter grades to more than 2,500 U.S. hospitals, assessing medical errors, accidents, injuries and infections.

The Hospital Safety Score grades general acute care hospitals on how safe they are for patients. The score includes data that patient safety experts use to compare hospitals. Publicly available data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Leapfrog Hospital Survey, and secondary data sources are weighted and then combined to produce a score that is published as an A, B, C, D or F letter grade.

Leapfrog also contracted with John Hopkins Medicine’s Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality on a new report estimating the number of avoidable deaths at hospitals in each grade level. Matt Austin, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality and the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine at John Hopkins University School of Medicine, led the analysis.

The analysis found that there is a 9 percent higher risk of avoidable death in B hospitals, 35 percent higher in C hospitals and 50 percent higher in D and F hospitals, than in A hospitals.

Of the 206,021 avoidable deaths occurring in all hospitals, 162,117 occur in B, C, D, and F hospitals. The analysis concluded an estimated 33,439 lives could be saved each year if all hospitals had the same performance as those receiving an A.

“It is time for every hospital in America to put patient safety at the top of their priority list, because tens of thousands of lives are stake,” Leah Binder, president and CEO of the Leapfrog Group, said in a statement. “The Hospital Safety Score alerts consumers to the dangers, but as this analysis shows, even A hospitals are not perfectly safe.”

According to the Leapfrog report, of the 2,571 hospitals issued a Hospital Safety Score, 798 earned an A, 639 earned a B, 957 earned a C, 162 earned a D and 15 earned an F. Last fall, 30 percent of the 2,530 hospitals reviewed had achieved an A, while this spring, the percentage increased slightly to 31 percent.

Additionally, 153 hospitals earned the “Straight A” since 2013 designation, which calls attention to hospitals who have consistently received an A grade for safety in the last three years of Hospital Safety Scores.

Vermont had the highest percentage of A hospitals, as 83 percent of its hospitals achieved a grade of
A. Maine came in second with 62.5 percent of its hospitals achieving an A, although for the last four rounds of the safety score Maine had held the highest percentage of A hospitals. This is the first time Vermont has claimed the number-one spot.

Alternatively, for the third year, zero hospitals in the District of Columbia received an A grade. Similarly, Arkansas and Wyoming had no hospitals with an A grade.

According to the Leapfrog Group, the April 2016 grade update highlights newly-added patient experience measures shown in the research to have a relationship to improved patient safety outcomes. These include results of patient surveys about: communication about medicines, communication about discharge, nurse communication, doctor communication, and responsiveness of hospital staff. Additionally, for the first time, the Score includes two new infection measures, MRSA Bacteremia and C.difficile.

State rankings can be accessed here.

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