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Leapfrog's 'License Fees' for Promoting Hospital Scores Rankle

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, June 14, 2012

The Leapfrog Group's Hospital Safety Scores released last week have many hospital officials in quite a lather, but not just because half of 2,600 hospitals got an embarrassing C, D, or F letter grade.

The industry is now rumbling because the non-profit group requires any hospital that wants to boast its high score—say on a banner or in a paid media ad—to first pay a "licensing fee" of between $5,000 and $12,500. That's a conflict of interest for both Leapfrog and the hospitals that buy the rights to boast this recognition, some hospital groups are saying.

I had some concerns about conflicts in Leapfrog's licensing fees too, at first. But I checked around and discovered such strategies are quite common. In fact, Leapfrog's marketing strategy is similar to what HealthGrades' does with its "Patient Safety Excellence Awards," which it announces annually for "the safest 5%" of the nation's hospitals, determined by HealthGrades' algorithms.

And it's similar to the marketing campaign that U.S. News & World Report employs for its "Best Hospitals Badge."

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3 comments on "Leapfrog's 'License Fees' for Promoting Hospital Scores Rankle"


Michael Millenson (6/15/2012 at 1:58 PM)
This story lets the hospitals try to conflate two different, unrelated items. First, is reporting data to Leapfrog, which is voluntary, a factor in being rated safe or not? Hospitals complain, but present no evidence, and Leapfrog says no. Second, is it OK for Leapfrog to charge for commercial use of its data? Yes. But the article acts as if Leapfrog makes money through the hospitals' voluntary reporting. It does not.

Anthony Cirillo (6/15/2012 at 12:38 PM)
I have to agree with the other comment. How is this any different than paying for Health Grades and the rest of the lot? Just because the data suggests under-performance does not give the right to attack a process that ther quality graders are using. They are in BUSINESS! That is how they make money. As a former chief marketing officer in hospitals and now as a consultant, I advise my clients against "buying" ratings, for good or for bad.

Joe Ketcherside MD (6/15/2012 at 9:51 AM)
I have been in healthcare for over 30 years, and this is the same song and dance over again. Physicians and hospitals who flunk a test spend more time attacking the test than they do their own crappy performance. Every measure of our health system that has ever been published shows that errors are rampant, routine care is not provided appropriately and costs are bankrupting us. "My patients are sicker." "The measures aren't risk-stratified" "Somebody else got a preferential score" and all the other standard objections are just plain worn out. If there's a better measure out there, let's see it. And I got news for you, if 80% of the systems test "above average", then that test is worthless. No measure is perfect, but if we all use the same test we know where we stand and can do something about it. Hospitals and physicians have done their level best to avoid any and all objective measurement of the safety and quality of care they deliver and oppose any public reporting. That has to stop. It's way past time for those hospitals with the Cs, Ds and Fs to put on their big boy undies, quit whining, and start acting like the professional they claim to be. Programs like Leapfrog will make it possible for consumers to pick the best systems, and with any luck the ones who spend their time attacking the test instead of their own failures will just go out of business.