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Hospitals Give Leapfrog Safety Scores a Failing Grade

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, June 7, 2012

Many healthcare organizations fired back with umbrage Wednesday at the Leapfrog Group's courageous hospital safety report cards, charging that assigning each hospital a "Safety Score" letter grade, much like county inspectors score restaurants, is an unfair way to gauge whether any hospital is more likely to harm patients than another.

And they said they were shocked that so many of the 2,652 hospitals—including winners of prestigious awards who make national "best hospital" lists would flunk, (132) or barely get a passing grade (1,111).

On Leapfrog's website, each facility now appears next to a big bold capital A, B, or C in a square box, or "Score Pending," which means a D or an F.

I heard an earful of complaints.

Leah Binder, Leapfrog's CEO, countered every point. My take is that while this process may be off to a bumpy start, it will definitely stimulate the conversation about the absolute necessity to improve patient safety in our nation's hospitals.

But first I'll let the hospitals have their say about what's wrong with Leapfrog's effort.

Hospital officials blasted the measures Leapfrog picked, the weights they were assigned, and the methods the non-profit group used to announce the scoring system to the public. Several I spoke with discredited Leapfrog's entire operation, saying many hospitals no longer participate in its voluntary data collection because of concerns that the measures Leapfrog collects are prone to the reporting hospital's interpretation.

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10 comments on "Hospitals Give Leapfrog Safety Scores a Failing Grade"


cheryl clark (6/13/2012 at 9:40 AM)
Difference between an adverse event and an event that causes harm. It's my understanding that an adverse event is something that happens that would could have adverse consequences to a patient, but may not have. For example, let's say that a patient gets the wrong medication. That's an adverse event, it wasn't supposed to happen. It was a mistake in care. But it didn't cause the patient harm. (They got aspirin instead of a prescription medication, for example.) the mistake was quickly caught, the patient got the right meds. It's serious, though, because the mistake might not have been caught or the error may have involved a wrongly administered medication that has a higher risk of harmful side-effects. So there is a subtle difference between adverse events and harm. Clearly Jim Lott is correct, that 1/3 of the patients in hospitals are not worse off after their care than before it.

R Daniel King (6/12/2012 at 10:14 AM)
Dear James Lott: The definition of "adverse" contains "detrimental" which means "something that impairs, injures, or causes loss." I believe any patient subjected to an "adverse" event would say they were "harmed."

James Lott (6/11/2012 at 4:37 PM)
Dear R.D. King and Nurse Day: To say that 1 in 3 hospitalized patients experience an "adverse event" is not the same as "...1 in 3 patients suffers HARM from their hospital care." (emphasis added to Ms. Day's quote)